A recent poll surveyed Americans regarding their concerns for the upcoming year. At the top of the list was “health.” This was somewhat surprising to me when you consider the recent terrorist attacks within our own borders and the unexplained mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas. Many people still worry about jobs and economic security in addition to the personal security threats. When you think about it, health is a great concern to all of us. All the gold in Fort Knox can’t buy health once you have lost it. Members of the Left and the Right like to argue whether healthcare is a right or a privilege. As a healthcare provider for over 40 yrs I would like to think that we all have a “right” to good health. What upsets me in this debate (and in my personal experience in dealing with patients) many people don’t take any responsibility for their own health. We have known for decades that smoking is a leading cause of many forms of cancer, heart disease, circulatory problems and chronic lung disease. Yet how many individuals continue to smoke despite half-hearted attempts to quit? Even blatant scary warnings on cigarette packages has not deterred some young people from smoking. I can remember as a teenager that is was “cool” to smoke. Fortunately I was not among the cool group of friends to take up the habit. I have spent many hours counseling young patients to avoid taking up the habit and avoid facing the need to quit at a later date.
Smoking is not the only “bad habit” that is jeopardizing our health. An even greater risk to our health is obesity. Many schools have removed physical education from their curriculum and adults on average are exercising less while their waistlines are growing ever larger. I have said for years that it is not so much that people are eating too much but are exercising too little. There is a direct link between obesity and such chronic diseases as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and heart disease. Exercise reduces obesity but also reduces the risk of these chronic illnesses. Immunization is preventive medicine at its best. Our life expectancy has doubled in the past one hundred years, largely due to vaccines for childhood illnesses. There are parents today who will not have their children vaccinated out of unfounded fears that vaccines can be harmful. I can assure everyone that vaccines are significantly safer than the illnesses they prevent. Even the flu shot is often avoided by otherwise intelligent adults who fear mercury poisoning from 1/2 ml of vaccine. There is probably more mercury in the air and water than in any flu shot! Tell that fear to the millions of people who died in the great Spanish flu outbreak 100 yrs ago. I think they would have chosen the flu shot if that option were available to them.
An ounce of prevention does prevent a pound of cure and the suffering and disability that comes from poor lifestyle choices. Eating right, exercising regularly, obtaining sufficient sleep and getting vaccinated against the flu and other preventable illnesses can add quantity and quality years to our lives. Yes we have a right to be healthy but we have a responsibility to LIVE healthy as well. “You reap what you sow” applies to our spiritual and physical health.