We’ve all experienced illness and disease and even aging. But those are not the only things that are attacking your wellness. The US Healthcare system has failed to evolve, like other industries, and instead it’s remained fragmented and inefficient and simply unable to keep up with the changing needs of our citizens. Particularly those of Medicare age and veterans.

But there is hope. Whether it’s you or a loved one that gets put on to the healthcare battle field, the best time to prepare is now. In this episode, Darwin Hale, author of Need to Know and a decorated retired military officer with more than twenty years in the healthcare arena, is going to show you the practical strategies to manage the system’s flaws, based on military lessons learned.

Some of his solutions include:

  • How to navigate a system that can cure or kill you
  • How to use wellness to fight disease
  • How to arm yourself with a battle plan so you don’t have to fight alone

By the end of this episode, you’ll know how to take care of yourself and how to get the care you deserve.

Darwin Hale: When I was in Afghanistan, working in the joint operations center, I wanted to write a book to help people understand what was happening in the world. I had a knack for helping people understand complex things in an unbiased way. Doesn’t matter your political party.

My friend’s spouses would say, “Hey, you know, you better run the world, you’ve done this in the military.” I kind of felt like I needed to share that. I got the title and the desire there and it was a pretty heavy topic.

Ultimately, they captured or killed Osama Bin Laden, and I was doing other things and had a family. As a not so young man, but my mother had asked me for help with Medicare when she turned 65.

“So fast forward a little bit past my deployment, and I couldn’t help her.”

I didn’t understand Medicare. So I had an accomplished military career, had a good, corporate career, had an MBA, and as my mom turned to me for help, I actually had to turn to one of my friends from the military for help.

I thought, gosh, if I’m having a tough time making these decisions or helping her make those decisions, probably other people will too.

That was really the genesis for my company and for writing the book.

Getting a Handle on Health

Charlie Hoehn: When did you first really have a breakthrough or I guess I should say a real grasp on the topic? How long did that take?

Darwin Hale: You know, it took a long time. I was working as the AT&T healthcare director. My very first job in healthcare was researching national healthcare policies for Senator Graham in Florida right out of college, trying to find my way. Later, that allowed me to take a job at IBM and really interact with our customers and understand their needs.

Talking to all those accomplished people at an early age and taking lots of notes really helped me understand the landscape of the industry and concluded that it’s not a technology problem, per se, but that the industry faces and the other things.

And that was about a 20-year journey, and then even in the final stages of the book, I still learned things about the future that I didn’t know.

So the first half of the book went barely smooth because I was working off of the past 20 years of experience, but with the future of medicine and things changing so rapidly on the technology front, it took me about six months longer on the research side.

Charlie Hoehn: What’s the big idea or take away from your book that listeners can remember use in their lives?

Darwin Hale: I would say the single biggest thing by a lot is that the lifespan, you know, people know in the US, we have a pretty good life and you would expect in other countries where they don’t have such a good life that it might be shorter.

“But the lifespan in the United States has a variance of 20 years.”

Literally, there are some counties where you have an expectancy to live on average to be 86. In other parts of the country, there are some counties, literally, the average mortality rate for the entire county population for several counties is 66. It’s a 20 year difference.

And that is a function of choices that you make.

Who Needs Need to Know?

Charlie Hoehn: So, why does the information in your book really matter for the listener who maybe has read other health books?

Darwin Hale: There’s definitely a lot about nutrition and movement out there. I don’t think there’s too much about mindset though and the power of the mind. I think that this book highlights mindset. It also highlights unique things that are the mechanics of why you have energy, right?

A lot of people say, “Well, I want more energy,” and so, really, the mitochondria, the little power plants in your body, some people have a trillion, some people have two trillion. You hear about carbohydrates or carbo loading or the food component, but nutrition itself is a whole different conversation. But the movement and creating mitochondria, that’s big, that’s different.

“That’s where that energy comes from.”

On the food side, what’s different is that I talk about food as instructions. So you think about eating in proteins and your healthy fats, and that’s good and that’s very important. But food is also a set of instructions in your body.

Your cells communicate with each other. From the time you start smelling food, it’s giving your body instructions on how to operate chemicals to release what to expect.

The mindset to be active and to choose, the fact that you should think of food, it’s not just fuel but it’s a set of instructions and the fact that movement isn’t just necessary for exercise and strength and conditioning but actually facilitate the process to get things where they need to be or take things away that don’t, that’s a different look.

There’s a whole other part to the book though that I think is equally important and that’s not in any other book that I found. That’s the healthcare system and how the healthcare system works and how to navigate the system. And more specifically, how to help others.

I think the people that are going to read this book are people that are naturally curious and like to develop and improve themselves as leaders or as people.

But I think they’re also going to be people that need to understand the national challenges we face with the threat to the debt and how healthcare, which is a serious as a war.

“There’s a national security play here.”

Having people that are the leaders of the community and the business people, having them understand how the people that are getting attacked by type 2 diabetes and getting attacked by these diseases and the preventable nature of it all, those people reading this book will understand how they can help.

I think that sometimes, when you’re trying to help someone else, you maybe tap into greater strength and greater discipline, I think sometimes it’s hard for me personally and sometimes it’s hard to eat right, sometimes it’s hard to get out and get my cardio in. Maybe I don’t do for myself what I would like to do. But I always do it for my kids, right?

I always find a way to help other people even if it’s something that I don’t do myself.

Healthcare in America

Charlie Hoehn: You talk about in your book that the healthcare industry doesn’t behave like any other industry. What do you mean by that?

Darwin Hale: You look at the finance industry and think about how in the 80s, you could go anywhere in the world and put your ATM card in a machine, pull out money and the local currency, and get your balance and it could keep track of it all.

You think about customer service and efficiency. I ordered a pizza the other day and the person on the phone asked me if I wanted eight pizzas again. They anticipated my order, they knew my last order and thought the soccer team was coming over, I said, “No, it’s not the soccer team, it’s just me and the kids today.” In less than thirty minutes, they got a pizza there.

“It was a simple transaction, and it was very convenient for me.”

Healthcare, you know, you can’t really shop, right? I mean, how do you pick a doctor, how do you shop in the healthcare industry, and who pays the bill? If I go shop for a car, I shop, I look for value, I buy the car that meets my needs, and then I pay for that. Or I finance it and the bank loans me the money that I pay for it.

In healthcare, it’s hard to shop. and you don’t pay the bill generally, there’s a third party of some sort, your employer or Medicare, the government.

Think about if you have a teenage daughter and she’s sixteen. Let’s say you have twin daughters and you tell one child, “Go out and buy a car and send me the bill,” or you take the other child and you say, “Okay, I’ve got $14,000, let’s go shop together to get the best car we can,” you’d probably end up with two different cars.

You know, thinking about that analogy, it’s hard to shop for healthcare in general from a quality perspective, you know, how do you know if one doctor’s better than another one. Also, just for value—how do you know when you’re getting a good deal.

You Are What You Eat

Charlie Hoehn: Can you kind of give us a high level overview of what we need to know about nutrition?

Darwin Hale: The first part of the book sets up the problem and talks about the decision making process and about the industry itself and just how it operates. But then I transition in part two, to the things that you can do right now to arm yourself.

So I want people to think about actively arming themselves and that you know, the system and the diseases out there, I want you to think of them as terrorists or criminals that want to rob you of your vitality.

“They want to rob you of your health, and health is precious.”

You don’t need any government officials to agree with each other, you don’t need the president and Congress to agree. The three areas in part two of the book that you can immediately take action and control your life and your health are nutrition, movement, and mindset.

And on the nutrition side, you know, understanding the macro and the micronutrients and the ratios and the importance. I lay out something earlier in the book called the contra positive, and its sort of opposite, right? The opposite of good is bad, up is down, rich is poor and healthy is sick.

Everybody knows that you can get sick if you don’t eat right.

If you don’t get vitamin C, you don’t get vitamin D, you could get rickets, you could get scurvy. A lot of the world suffers diseases, so you’ll definitely get sick if you don’t eat the right amount of vitamins and minerals and nutrients.

The opposite is true as well.

I prescribe that if you do eat the right amount and know what’s the right amount for you of the various vitamins and minerals that you need that you will be healthier and that your body will use that to fight off and use your own immune system to fight off the pathogens that are out there to get you.

Why Darwin Hale Eats Well

Charlie Hoehn: What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Darwin Hale: Well, I eat a lot of fiber and I eat a lot of the colors of the vegetables. But you know, the book isn’t so much about what’s the right diet for you.

To your earlier point, I think there are a lot of books out there that can help you with that. What we talk about and need to know is just how important nutrition is.

It’s the single most important thing you can do.

The book isn’t prescriptive in terms of this is how many green leafy vegetables you should eat, but it introduces things like the microbiome and that you’ve got more bacteria living in and on your body than there are actual cells in your body. They’re just smaller.

That bacteria influences your DNA, and your DNA may express or may not express itself. That’s a function of what you eat.

“That’s why I say food is instructions.”

I articulate what a micronutrient or a macronutrient are because they’re the things that you need. To me, the need to know nugget isn’t so much eat your vegetables. It’s that these bacteria send messages based on what you feed them and those messages impact your DNA and your DNA impacts you.

The whole concept of epigenetics, which is your whole environment, the microbiome which is the bacteria that isn’t you. That impacts the actions that your DNA take. To me, that’s the need to know nugget in nutrition.

And then that carries over as well into movement. If you look at pictures, there’s a graph in the book that explains experiments where one person cycled with one leg and not the other leg and then they looked at the DNA and it was different. The composition of the cell and the organism from moving, was different.

So not only do you need to move things around your body that you’ve ingested through nutrition, you actually have other functions that your body performs and the best example of that is the fluid that moves around your body or lymphatic system.

So that system has got something that looks like veins and arteries, and it’s got fluid in it, but it doesn’t have a heart to pump. So the way that that fluid moves around is through your body moving.

You might have flown on an airplane and saw someone where they’re ankles are a bit swollen because the fluid has collected there and then as they move around, it gets cleaned up and put back into their blood stream or put back where it belongs. There’s a whole system in your body that does that, and that whole system works on movement, so just getting things where they need to be, you have to move.

There’s a relationship between the nutrition and the movement because you need to take in the right amount of nutrients, and those nutrients also have calories associated with them.

There is a minimum number of actions that you need to take to not only move those nutrients around but to use up the energy that comes with them. So the two things go together.

You could eat the healthiest meals known to man and sit on the couch all day and you’re going to have a problem.

Take Care of You

Charlie Hoehn: What can I be doing so that I don’t gum up the works like you say in your book?

Darwin Hale: One thing I do that is unique is that I put all the vegetables into a bullet in the morning and I make myself a big smoothie, but it doesn’t have sugar or ice cream or even too many berries in it. I find it difficult to get the right amount of servings of vegetables as they prescribe that, say, seven servings.

So I put all of that in a bullet, I blend it up in the morning, and I think of it not as because it tastes good or not. But I think of it as medicine.

“Food is my medicine.”

Drinking that every morning is how I start my day and I think that’s really healthy.

The movement question that you asked I think is simply to be active on a daily basis. You hear sitting is the new smoking. So I do actually get my 10,000 steps a day. I do some stretching routines every day sometimes three times a day, just because I have a desk job and as you get hunched over and you don’t use certain muscles they get weak.

And then after I had my steps and my flexibility, I occasionally do some strength conditioning as part of my movement routine, but I would caution against people that if you think you’re going in and hitting the bench press and doing some biceps like I did in college, that’s not the routine when you are moving into your 50s. You’ve got to think of other things besides the biceps.

Charlie Hoehn: In terms of let’s say, the veggie smoothie, how long have you been doing that?

Darwin Hale: I’ve been doing that for a couple of years now. You know it’s amazing as I work in the industry and as I start to see the influence you can have over your own health. Because I used to think that you got your DNA, it is what it is and it really doesn’t matter what you do.

So the more that I did the research, the more it was a wakeup call and I actually started feeling uncomfortable because I’m like, “Oh man, you know I am writing a book on this stuff.”

Charlie Hoehn: What have been the changes that you’ve noticed since you’ve implemented having a veggie smoothie first thing or a salad at lunch?

Darwin Hale: Yeah, I feel it. I definitely do. I have been doing it for a couple of years, eating salads at lunch. So what I would say in my life is that I go through phases. When times are good, I am taking people out and celebrating a lot and I am going into a little bit of a hibernation mode, probably having a little more wine than I should, but things are good you know? So you are enjoying the times, and then it catches up and I go on the alternate cycle.

I get up early, I go to the gym, I eat really well.

“I have such a great feeling in the morning when I’ve got my routine in.”

Maybe have a cup of coffee, I am watching the sun come up, energy levels are up, clothes fit better. I am not the only one: I’ve got some pants for when I am bigger and some pants for when I prefer to be.

It is just a great feeling and it is definitely a relationship between the exercise and the food.

Mindset First

Charlie Hoehn: Let’s touch on the mindset and then go into healthcare.

Darwin Hale: Okay, well with mindset I think you’ve heard the term worried sick or worry themselves sick, died of a broken heart.

Well so that is a real phenomenon in terms of the stress that you feel. It creates chemicals, those chemicals create inflammation. It is kind of the fight or flight response kind of a principle, and that over time causes cancer. It causes heart disease. It causes your body to not be able to defend itself.

So human beings are unique because we’ve got the ability to choose. We’ve got freewill.

When the sun shines, the flower opens. If you get too close to a snake, it bites you. Those are programmed responses.

“With us, we have a choice.”

Sometimes it’s complicated because one person’s upbringing and another they can see the same thing and perceive it a different way, but ultimately we have that choice.

And the reason that that choice is important is because as you look at income and you look at education and what are called the social determinants of health—you see that it is not necessarily the doctor that you see that’s the primary thing. It’s where you live.

As I say in the book, it’s your zip code more than your DNA code that determines your health and your health outcomes.

Start with DNA

Charlie Hoehn: Can you dive into a little bit more of an explanation around that?

Darwin Hale: So the easiest way I can say it is that if you want to just get down to the basics of say happiness, happy people tend to be more resilient, better able to cope with the changing world we live in. And as a result, they make better choices in terms of what they eat and how they behave.

Alternatively, it just turns out that for whatever reason, lower income and lower educated people tend not to handle that stress and the challenges of life as well.

Take smoking. There is a direct correlation between not going to high school, going to high school, some college, full college or a PHD, and the percentage of people that smoke.

So a big thing in the book about mindset is that I want people to understand that one percent of the population consumes about 30% of the resources in our healthcare system. Five percent of the population consumes almost 50% of the resources.

“The most vulnerable and least able to help themselves are the ones that need help the most.”

I didn’t write a book for the person that is perhaps the one that is going to get the disease, although there is a lot of tips in the book. I wrote it for people like you and me who might want to go serve in their community and help, perhaps, prevent slips and falls. Or help deal with end of life issues or help people manage type 2 diabetes.

So whether it’s the Elk’s Lodge or any of the leaders, for the business leaders to come together in the community—I have programs that the government has put together that I want to show them how to use so they can work in their own community, helping people in their community the same way that I help people on my kid’s school.

My kids go to a public school. It’s kind of a group of haves and have nots. There is a good number of people at that school below the poverty level, so I am active in the school in providing food or clothes for the store.

I think we have to do that across the country, and this book hopefully will educate people into what the issues are or where they can do the most good if it suits them and they’ve got the ability to give a little bit.

Reader’s Challenge

Charlie Hoehn: What would you challenge readers to do this month to make the healthcare a bit better in their community and to take care of others?

Darwin Hale: I would give them two challenges. Challenge number one, I would ask them who is their primary care physician and why did you pick them?

That is a very simple thing to do. Is it the doctor that was down the street, is it the walk in clinic that was close?

If you know that the life expectancy in the country can vary by 20 years and that there is a relationship between your actions and your nutrition and your care team, who is your care team? It all starts with your primary care doctor. That would be my first challenge.

Charlie Hoehn: Excellent. And part two?

Darwin Hale: My second challenge would be what community activities do you perform? One of the things that we know is that a condition of happiness or what leads to happiness is giving and being linked to something purposeful, doing things that matter.

So within your community, I would like to ask people what is it that you do to help your community?

If the community is strong, the nation is strong. If you are strong, the nation is stronger.

In the book, I explained that slipping and falling is not a natural part of the aging process. It is preventable and diagnosable.

“Social isolation is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

So what happens with slipping and falling that people don’t know is that once they have a fall or a broken hip, they become afraid of that happening again, so then they become less active and they don’t go out and interact the way that they would.

And they ultimately become a little bit depressed and a little bit isolated, and that has very compounding health issues that are measured in other causes of death.

Slipping and falling is a really bad thing in itself, but also that it leads to isolation and depression ,and there are also health consequences that follow along from there.

The three areas that I encourage people to focus on if they’re not already working with the great organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Heart and Lung Association, there are just a ton of great organizations changing the world out there.

But if you don’t have a cause yet, I outlined in the book three simple areas that you can help that I think will have the most impact in terms of avoidable misery and costliness to the country.

Charlie Hoehn: Well Darwin this has been excellent. Can you give our listeners some information on how they can best get in touch with you or follow you in your journey?

Darwin Hale: I’m also on LinkedIn, but darwinhale.com, and there are contact options there and other information.