Healthy living is your choice

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James Kahrs
  • 22nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
I'd take this opportunity to discuss the things you and I can do to optimize our health, in hopes of living a long and productive life.

You have the strongest influence on your health. Even with of modern medicine with all of its sophisticated tests and machines, for most people most of the time, it is up to us. While I will discuss what modern medicine has to offer, I'd like to talk about your personal responsibilities for maintaining your health. Most of the major causes of death can be prevented or delayed significantly by your lifestyle choices.

The single most important decision you can make is to not smoke or use tobacco. Smoking causes 440,000 deaths per year in the United States. More preventable illnesses emphysema, various cancers and heart disease are caused by tobacco use more than anything else.

Next on the list of right choices is regular, strenuous exercise. Exercising 30 to 60 minutes, four to six times a week can prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis and depression. The truth is that most people don't enjoy exercise and so they choose not to do it, but everyone can exercise at some level, and any amount of exercise is better than none. For everyone in a uniform being in shape is a condition of employment, no questions asked.

The last healthy choice I'd like to talk about is diet. The better you eat, the longer you live. There is also now very good evidence that living on about 80 to 90 percent of the calories normally recommended can prolong life and significantly reduce the diseases associated with diet.

There are numerous other things you can do to protect yourself, such as being safety conscious, using sun block, obtaining advanced training in motor vehicle usage and others, but I'd like to shift my focus now to what the doctors have to offer you.

The relationship with your doctor needs to be a cooperative effort. The most important thing a patient can do to take care of himself, especially if he has any known medical conditions, is to follow the advice and treatment plan of his physician. Remember, your doctor is a consultant, not a babysitter. You have the ultimate responsibility for your own health.

There are a very limited number of things doctors can do to discover hidden diseases early enough to affect the long-term outcome. Recommended screening tests include a blood pressure screen for everyone beginning at 18, pap smears for sexually active women starting at 18, a cholesterol test at 35 for men and 45 for women, mammograms for women starting at 40 and a colorectal cancer screen for everyone starting at 50. These are general recommendations, and they can vary for certain individuals.

There are really only a few things doctors can detect early and help control that have been shown to prolong life; cancers, heart attacks and strokes.

When considering the health benefits of recommended screening tests to that of healthy lifestyle choices, there is no comparison. Healthy lifestyle choices will prevent significantly more diseases and premature deaths than all the screening tests in the world.

The choice is yours to make; I hope you make the right one.

For further questions, please contact your primary care manager.