(Or...would you care for a jelly doughnut?)
This week’s Prevention Not Prescriptions guest blogger is Trisha Torrey, patient advocate and author of You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes.
What exactly is prevention?
Most of us would agree that we want to live as long as possible, as healthy as possible. Prevention, then, becomes a means to achieve that goal.
We do preventive things – or we don’t do non-preventive things – to maximize our quality and quantity of life. We eat healthy foods – or we avoid unhealthy foods. We don’t smoke. We drink alcohol in moderation. We exercise regularly. Prevention helps us manage that balancing act toward achieving our goals of living our longest and healthiest lives.
The problem is - nobody is perfectly preventive. We slip up all the time. C’mon – you know you snuck that cupcake last week! Tuesday you didn’t feel so well, so you skipped your workout. Oh, the guilt!
And what about those 10 or 20 or how-many-more years of life when prevention wasn’t even on your radar? Did you ever get a sunburn when you were a kid? How long did you stay on birth control? Did those unconscious acts ruin your chance for a long and healthy life?
Further, sometimes prevention guidelines change. Remember when margarine was considered healthier than butter? Hormone replacement therapy was the solution to menopause, too. Further research has shown us that those truisms aren’t quite so true anymore. Yet we bought-in for years. At what expense?
Most of us make the best choices we can when we are consciously making choices. It’s too late to change yesterday’s prevention mistakes, but it’s not too late to take a different, more conscious approach to prevention starting today.
So let’s look at prevention as a series of conscious negotiation opportunities with ourselves. Just like the NATO treaties, or the price we’re willing to pay for a house; ask yourself, what are you willing to trade in order to stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible? For each of us, the answers will be different.
Want to eat that piece of marbled steak or sprinkle salt on your food? OK. Maybe once in a great while it won’t hurt. But indulging too frequently will mean you are trading that steak for a year of life, or the chance of a heart attack, a stroke or even Alzheimer’s disease.
Wish you could light up a cigarette? That drag might feel great in the moment. But ask yourself if that moment is more important than years of breathing easily or worth exposing your children to second or third hand smoke so they, too, may develop lung problems.
Already downed three cookies when one would have been plenty? Fine. Your negotiation might be to do an extra hour on the treadmill to prevent that weight gain. Then accept that diabetes may be in your future if you do so too often. If you don’t mind insulin injections for the rest of your life, then it may be worth the trade.
Think of prevention as your ability – and need – to actively negotiate each day for a healthier and longer future. Yesterday’s non-preventive habits could cut your life short by 10 or 20 years. But renegotiating with yourself today might mean you are healthier till the end, or that you can buy back those lost years because you’ve made wiser choices.
It’s a struggle, for sure. Temptation is a constant nag. But once you begin active self-negotiation, you’ll be able to internalize what’s important to you with a clarity you’ve never had before. It’s your positive step toward keeping the Prevention Police at bay.
Now, may I offer you a jelly doughnut? Or would you prefer an apple? Just what are they worth to you?
Trisha Torrey was recently on The Kathleen Show to talk about her new book, You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes. In this must-hear interview, Trisha explains the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to their health care and shares everything you need to know to get the best treatment possible for you and your family.
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