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Context is Key in Discerning Health Headlines

Emma Tekstra > Healthcare Industry  > Context is Key in Discerning Health Headlines

Eggs are good or bad for you?  Supplements alleviate nutritional deficiencies or result in expensive urine? High cholesterol will lead to a heart attack or protect you from later dementia? This food or that diet will make you live longer and avoid disease. . . . Every week it seems there’s a new headline with the latest information to send your head spinning. Many people simply give up and assume that we really have no idea what generates health or illness and it basically comes down to our genes.

Knowledge Takes Time

Only reading the headlines or the 3 minute Youtube video is dangerous in any aspect of our lives. Context is always key. Our understanding of the human body and what makes it tick or breakdown though is in its infancy even in the 21st century.  The complexity is unfathomable. So any headline is less than a fraction of the story of what the discovery or science means for you.

Science is the progression of understanding. It almost never provides the whole answer. Particularly in the life sciences where we don’t even understand life itself. What is consciousness? How does a sperm find an egg to generate new life? How do we have 23 pairs of chromosomes and only 22,000 genes but every single one of us on the planet is entirely unique? How does our body magically balance hormones and minerals, generate the right enzymes to break down the food we just ingested and know to release additional glucose from the liver so we have the energy to flee the danger we just encountered?

Statistics Can Be Misleading

While research is important to try and eliminate bias to get at the cause rather than a simple correlation, it is actually impossible to fully account for reality. There are just too many elements going into any impact being studied. Aside from the unique genetic makeup of each human in the study, there is far more variation in their microbiomes (the genetic makeup of every bacteria, virus, parasite and fungi living in and on each human) plus their overall lifestyles wildly differ. From social relationships and emotional outlook, to chemical exposures, amount of time spent on electronics or in nature, exercising or at a desk, let alone every element of food or drink ingested – the permutations are infinite.

Whatever the research is studying it can only go so far in eliminating supposedly “unrelated” factors but everything in your life over every second you have been alive can affect outcomes.

There is no such thing as an average human or an average 50-year-old or an average person with X condition or set of symptoms. As an actuary and mathematician I know how useful statistics can be but I also know that they must be read within the context of the background details as well as all the other science that went before.

A Book That Provides the Context

Book cover of How to Be a Healthy HumanGiven these challenges I wanted to write a book that explains the context and helps you become a more discerning reader of the headlines. It provides clarity on the competing information so common nowadays and puts the emphasis on you (rather than the professional in the white coat) being the best steward of your own body and how to keep it balanced and operating well. It explains some of the key workings of the human body in layman’s terms so you can understand how inter-connected it all is.  From infections, to chronic conditions and mental health, it covers a lot of ground, but also provides over 300 scientific references and a wealth of additional resources and recommended further reading.


Given so much of our behavior when faced with a health issue is governed by the resources available to us via our company health plan or insurance policy, there is an appendix written to Corporate HR and healthcare professionals with the implications. Employers (and insurers) have an outsized influence on our health through the behaviors that they drive and the large percentage of our lives we spend at work. It is my passion to facilitate a shift in the paradigm and be a catalyst for change. I hope you will join me.

More information about the book on Amazon:

Now Available: How to Be a  Healthy Human – The Workbook

Emma Tekstra
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