And we manage it all the time.
Consciously or unconsciously.
Systematically or erratically.
When you take responsibility for your health, you start making your own risk management decisions. Whether you are aware of it or not.
If you let a doctor take the lead on your health decisions, they assess risk for you.
Doctors are always weighing the potential benefits of a particular treatment against the potential risks. That is part of what we ask them to do, as medical experts.
You don’t need to be a medical expert to know how to manage risks relating to the interventions you undertake to improve your health.
You just need to be systematic. I’ll tell you how!
Risk Management for Health
When we take responsibility for our health by engaging in nutritional and lifestyle interventions, we can manage risk for the actions we decide to take. And the actions we decide not to take.
Because there can be risk in inaction, too.
We can also consider risk when deciding whether to include (or exclude) pharmaceutical or other therapies as part of our health management strategy.
Start with Questions
Start the process by asking the following questions:
- Context: What is your situation? What is the proposed intervention?
- Research: What are the risks associated with your particular situation and this particular intervention? What are the risks associated with not intervening in this situation?
- Assessment: What is the likelihood of each risk? What are the consequences of each risk? To assess the likelihood of each risk and the severity of the consequences, you can use a table like this one:
First determine if the consequences of a given risk will be negligible, moderate or extreme (for you, in your situation).
Then assess how likely that risk is. Is it improbable, occasional or probable (for you)?
Combine the two factors to find out if you are contemplating a low risk, medium risk, serious risk or very high risk plan of action (or inaction).
After answering the six questions, there are five stages to work through:
- Consult: Include knowledgeable others in your process. Seek multiple expert opinions when the risks are higher.
- Decide: Make the best decision you can with the information available to you. Consider including more members of your team in the decision-making process as the risks get higher.
- Develop: Put strategies in place to limit the impact of identified risks through 1.) Monitoring those impacts; and 2.) Creating a ‘risk mitigation strategy’. For example, if you decide to take antibiotics, you can plan to mitigate risks by repopulating your gut microbiome by eating probiotic foods.
- Implement: Start your intervention (and your risk mitigation strategy).
- Monitor: Track the impacts of the intervention by gathering data. Return to the question phase if things aren’t going as you anticipated.
I’ve written about gathering data for n=1 experiments before, and I am currently developing a course that will delve into this subject in a systematic way. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here are a few posts on the subject:
You need to take what you know about yourself into account when making risk management decisions.
For example, Matthew knows he is very susceptible to the side-effects of medications. Including the rare side-effects at the bottom of the list that his doctors have never seen in real-life before.
Therefore, he reads through all the potential side effects of a given medication thoroughly when making the decision about whether to take it, and assumes that rare effects are not necessarily rare for him, even though they would be for most other people.
The Healing Protocols (& Risk)
The good news is that if you are focusing primarily on nutrient-dense food and the lifestyle factors of healing protocols, like improving sleep, managing stress and nurturing healthy relationships, you are managing little or no risk at all. That is one of the compelling arguments in favour of using a healing protocol approach.
But some people may be incurring risk by relying solely on healing protocols. Including when concurrent infections are present or serious health issues require additional pharmaceutical or surgical interventions.
When approaching decisions about health interventions from a risk management perspective, we can get past attachments to a particular mode of therapy and simply consider the impacts of various interventions.
Blind allegiance in any ideology does not serve us when are taking responsibility for our own health. Rather, we need to engage the Stockdale Paradox, by confronting the reality of our situation and the risks associated with our various options, while simultaneously having faith that we can (and will) improve our health.