Docs Corner

It is amazing how strategic many executives are in making business decisions but then use default reasoning when it comes to their personal health. Many treat their health much like a rental car: sleep, eat, and go (often skipping meals especially breakfast or eat on the run). Since most rental cars are essentially new and run well, we usually only check that the car is filled with gas, has air conditioning, and a GPS. If we travel to Atlanta once a month and on each trip are given the same blue Honda Civic, after a few years we may begin to question whether the car has been serviced properly. After 5, 10, or 20 years, how the Civic had been cared for would make a huge difference in whether it would continue to serve us well.

Our bodies are the “blue Civic.” We cannot replace it or choose another vehicle. The replacement parts are never as good as the original equipment. Our goal should not be to become an old heap, but instead to create a vintage vehicle that does get old, but looks and runs “like new” to the end of life. How long each of us lives is a “God thing.” How we live, and to some extent how we die, is a choice.

As defined by the World Health Organization, health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Dr. David B. Agus, in his book, The End of Illness, points out that our concept of “health” has evolved and should not be approached as a list of “dos and don’ts” or to follow “one correct formula”, but to make an effort to understand one’s own health status and follow strategic empowering decisions for yourself that are based on your personal code of values and health circumstances to achieve the health goal you chose. This requires focused effort to become strategically empowered. This best way to start is to undergo a thorough personal health assessment.

According to the Michael Milken Institute, the cost of treatment for the seven most common chronic diseases (combined with productivity losses) results in more than a trillion dollar annual expense in the USA alone. Evidence-based medicine indicates that 70% of chronic illnesses can be prevented or significantly ameliorated with significant strategic life-style changes that incorporate healthy nutrition and consistent balanced exercise. This requires a proactive rather than reactive medical philosophy toward health.

Nutrition should emphasize whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and fish, while limiting salty foods, concentrated sweets, and saturated fats. Frequent small quantities distributed throughout the day supply our metabolic consumption needs. Our bodies thrive on proper nutrition delivered in a “timely efficient” manner. Moreover, consistent exercise of 30 to 60 minutes most days is essential to good health.

Fortunately for most adults, life-style choices account for about 70% of risk while inherited genetics account for only about 30% or less , with some very striking exceptions when a genetic trait is dominant. Inherited genetics are more relevant to risk than disease. A reasonable analogy may be to think of inherited genetics as the “loaded gun” while life-style is the “trigger”. Strategic awareness of risk allows us to take aggressive steps to mitigate against the risk and monitor carefully to facilitate early detection so that any developing disease process can be aggressively addressed.

Most people that invest in real estate are aware that location is a major consideration. Many of us are willing to spend time, energy and resources for our careers, but tend to not have the interest, time, or money to invest in the most important real estate we own– our bodies. Assuming responsibility for one’s own health is something that cannot be delegated. It is too often dealt with by default and lack of any specific strategic plan. It should be the goal of each of us to pursue excellence in health just as one pursues excellence in business or other life endeavors that we value.

Paul R. Block, MD, FACP, FCCP

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