Personal Health Responsibility
Bad things do sometimes happen to good people. Sometimes people who take great care of themselves, eat well, watch their weight, exercise and don’t smoke still develop terminal cancers. Genetics, air and water quality, job status, economic and education conditions, and other factors can play a role in whether we develop chronic or deadly conditions and many of these factors are out of our control.
However, those who choose health in general fare better than those who choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle. Just because the cards may be stacked against you to develop one condition or another doesn’t mean that you should just throw up your hands and smoke a pack a day. You still have a significant control over how you feel, how well you age, and what kind of general health profile you have.
The power of the human mind can be truly astounding. Cancer patients that are given an “expiration date”; essentially told that they will succumb to their disease in 3 months or six months or a year, often do exactly as they are told! The day approaches and they expire. Does this make the doctor a magic? No, it quite often demonstrates that if you believe that you will get something, chances are you will.
Just because every male in your family dies at age 55 of a massive heart attack doesn’t mean that this will happen to you, unless you truly believe that it will, then, look out! The power of the human mind is amazing and belief plays a massive role in the development and progression of disease. If you believe that you will be healthy and make decisions based upon that belief, then chances are you will be. Conversely, if you think that you’ll croak at any moment, and live life like it’s inevitable that it’ll be any moment, then its likely are that you’ll take chances and make choices that will lead to your premature demise.
The concept of personal responsibility in terms of health could change the entire fabric of society. Trillions of dollars could be saved if people simply took more responsibility for their health and made choices that were intended to improve health and longevity. If the youth were taught proper health and hygiene habits and were instructed from an early age, we could see a significant reduction in preventable diseases. However, this doesn’t seem to be happing. All too often people are letting others make their health decisions for them, and they are then stuck with the results, good or bad. When we let someone else decide for us, chances are the outcome will not be good. This lack of personal responsibility and blame game are leading us down a very sinister road; it is unlikely that our elementary school kids will be healthier than their parents, and we will all pay for this as a society, in suffering and money.
In light of the debt reduction talks in Washington and the overwhelming burden that is the American health care system, it is time for personal responsibility to become a major part of the discussion; however, this doesn’t currently seem to be the case. I can only hope that my personal actions toward better health and wellbeing for myself, my family and my patients will create a ripple that will spread.
Dr. Jason W. Haas