Why You Need to Know Human Anatomy and Physiology
Understanding Human Biology: "Know Thyself"
I absolutely love anatomy and physiology. I find the manner in which the body conducts itself, growing, maintaining, repairing - and just plain getting the job done - fascinating, and the efficiency of the whole process boggles the mind. Considering the assaults upon its very being that the human organism encounters on a daily basis, it is simply amazing that anyone lives through an entire day without falling over dead, or at least in a disease-induced stupor.
When I was taking pre-veterinary courses way back in the 1980s, A&P, as we called it, was my favorite course. Once I moved on to immunology, histology, endocrinology, etc. things got a little hairier, due to the boatloads of minutiae one had to memorize. I think I found these subjects a bit more difficult since they did not, at such a cellular level, represent the day-to-day issues faced by the skeletal, muscular, digestive, and other large systems studied alone and then in concert with each other. Anatomy and physiology was real life and the more specialized subjects seemed, at least to me, much less "real".
Many people have little knowledge of how their body works, which makes taking care of themselves quite difficult. Having a good knowledge of anatomy and physiology would help these persons make health-related decisions with more confidence and, I believe, prevent some serious health and general welfare problems.
How My Knowledge of Human Anatomy Has Served Me Well
Most students expect school learning to be of little value once they are out of college but find that just the opposite is true once they graduate and start their new jobs and lives. I realized early on how my schooling gave me an excellent background for living in and caring for a human body, in addition to all I had learned about the care of our animal companions. Here are just a couple of examples of how having a good understanding of human biology helped me make informed decisions throughout life.
One day, when I was in my early thirties, I began to feel discomfort in the lower right abdominal area. I suspected appendicitis, but decided to give it a little more time. As the pain worsened and I had problems moving my right leg, I knew I had to go to the hospital and not wait any longer. I was correctly diagnosed, unlike my friend's sister, who nearly died after her infected appendix burst. If she had known better how to read her body, she may have asked for a second opinion (she was no shrinking violet) and avoided that harrowing experience.
Another time I developed a small bump on the palm of my hand, below the finger joint. I consulted one of my many reference books and thought it was probably a ganglion, a benign growth. A trip to the doctor confirmed this. Cheerfully, he said they could "cut that right out" for me. When I asked if ganglia didn't often go away on their own, he said, "Sure! Let's wait and see." Within six months, the bump was completely gone. Whew! Knowing the right questions to ask saved me from blindly agreeing to an invasive and unnecessary medical procedure.
Knowing how the body reacts to various chemicals and drugs can be a lifesaver. Almost 30 years ago, I read an article about how acetaminophen can adversely affect the liver, particularly when mixed with other drugs. Since that time, there has been much research confirming how very toxic this drug can be, though not all healthcare practitioners seem to be aware of this. A couple of years ago, my husband had an attack of sciatica and saw a doctor who was covering for his regular physician. When he told this man that he did not want a prescription that contained this particular painkiller, the doctor replied angrily, "There is nothing wrong with acetaminophen!" Needless to say, we did not fill the prescription.
It's Never Too Late to Learn
Learning the basics of anatomy and physiology is very easy. Most colleges and universities offer such courses both during the day and through continuing education night classes. Many now have many course offerings online, as well. If going back to school isn't for you, there are lots of popular books on the subject, such as the You! series by Mehmet C. Oz. These types of books may actually be more usable to an adult just familiarizing him or herself with the subject, since they are less dry and present material with more of a connection to everyday life.
Remember: life is just one big learning curve. Enjoy!
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