Awareness and Choice: the Keys to Good Health

I recently read a print interview in which a physician was asked why she prescribes weight loss drugs to her patients.

On one hand, she provided some rather dramatic case examples of how patients had truly been helped. I’d be quick to point out that in those cases the pharmaceuticals were part of an overall plan, closely managed by the physician, in which dietary changes and exercises (the obese patient, over time, began to run 5Ks) had a major impact. The physician went on to note that use of medications was not her preferred option but that, given the dangerous health status of some of her patients, she had little choice. She listed the following as the most significant barriers as those that prevent patients from being successful without the addition of weight-loss medications:
  • Healthy food is expensive. Some folks rely on packaged food from the local quick-stop or dollar store and coupons from fast food restaurants to feed themselves and their families.

  • Lack of education. Patients may drink fruit juice because they think it is healthy, or they drink other sugar-sweetened beverages to stay well hydrated. Seemingly amazing examples abound (e.g., some patients switch from vanilla to strawberry ice cream because they believe that latter "contains fruit").

  • Exercise is time consuming. Many patients work multiple jobs and have family responsibilities that do not allow them adequate time to exercise. Others live in areas where it's unsafe to exercise outside and do not have the means to pay for gym memberships.
Without dismissing the significance of these challenges, in each of these instances, as with most things in life, priorities and choices are key. In each moment of every day, we are each presented with choices, most so simple we’re not even aware that a choice is being presented. But they’re there: choices about selecting a mate, about a proper education, about getting a job, about how our job and relationships match (or don’t) with our preferred life-style and values, and on-and-on. This is no less true about our approach to our health status and its components: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Perhaps having a better understanding of the very significant cumulative negative health impact of poor health choices made on a daily basis might snap us to attention. But the negative impact is insidious, occurring seemingly very slowly not at all obviously. Kudos to the human body. It’s pretty amazing how long our bodies can keep it all hidden from us until, at some point, we have a health crisis or things begin to pile-up and doctor visits and heavy-duty pharmaceuticals become a regular part of our life.

For every challenge there is ultimately a choice. Yes, health food is expensive, but seldom prohibitively so. And it may mean sacrificing some other less-than-essential item in your life. As for exercise, even die-hard exercisers can hit a wall. Moreover, everyone ages and the seemingly bottomless well of youthful energy begins to wane. Plus, we’re working all day at our stressful jobs! So we require a bit more “convincing” to get up and move. But every study underscores that it is absolutely essential. As you age, adapt your routine and appreciate every day that you’re vertical! Education is definitely key. The first step is awareness. Few people today have no access to electronic media and, if one is interested, it is nearly impossible to develop some sense of the basics of good health. Heck, we’re bombarded with the dietary and activity details of celebrities and professional athletes. Look to them for initial motivation. But you can accomplish many of the same results on a much more reasonable budget.

So if you're young, get on with it.  If you are (or are approaching) the "vintage" category, well - be reasonable. It's never too late to start, but start slowly. And share this article with young people in your life.

Remember, it's all about awareness and choice.

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