Prevention and Wellness – we are train wrecks waiting to happen

As a retired benefits professional, both as a consultant and manager of an employer benefits program, I have been involved with numerous healthcare prevention and wellness efforts. I have worked with wonderful colleagues who put in motion terrific ideas and measured their success. And, if not working well, they tweaked or scrapped them, as the key is to prevent illness and injury. The reason – we are train wrecks waiting to happen. If we don’t take care of ourselves now, issues will manifest themselves later.

March is national Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, so you may have seen more commercials on getting a colonoscopy. There is no better preventive exercise than getting a colonoscopy whether you are male or female. At the age of 55, I have had the “pleasure” twice and each time they have found pre-cancerous polyps, which they can and did remove during the procedure. If you are over the age of 50 and have not had one, please see your doctor. The worst thing is the cleansing liquid that you need to drink the afternoon and evening before. The procedure itself is twenty minutes in length.

Each October, we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month. Unlike colonoscopies, mammograms should start at an earlier age, especially if you have a family history. And, unlike colonoscopies, reading a mammogram is science and art. It takes a trained eye to read them and there are some false readings. I have two suggestions. First, start early with self-examination. If you don’t know how, ask someone who does. You know your body better than anyone, so you may sense something is amiss.

Second, if you do get a mammogram and get a positive result, don’t panic and do the follow-up with an oncologist.  Even if the oncologist says everything is OK, it is worth the trouble and expense. If you get a negative (or there may or may not be an issue) mammogram and feel it is not correct, get another one. In the mid-1990s, we ran a mobile mammogram (thanks Mary!), which conducted 11,000 screenings for our employees, irrespective of whether they signed up for the employer healthcare plan. We detected 9 cancers. That is nine lives who may have been saved, which makes the cost savings to the employees and employers meaningless when compared to a life saved.

While these are of critical importance, most people die from heart disease, including and especially women. So, every month should be heart disease awareness month. One of my old Global Health and Wellness colleagues said one of America’s greatest exports is obesity. We have shared with the world our affinity for fast food and each nation has made it their own adding other unhealthy items to the menu. In Mexico, you can get a burrito with your Big Mac at Mickey D’s. I should add the US is the most obese country in the world according to the World Health Organization with over a third of Americans with a BMI greater than 30, although Mexico is giving us a run for our money.

There are a number of programs and diets that attack people, especially women, from TV and magazines. Dr. Oz is great, but he has a new idea on every day, so you are blitzed by information and are hamstrung on what to do. You cannot do everything Dr. Oz suggests. So, here are a couple of simple ideas that we each can do (please do more if you are and can), that will help you with your heart health.

Walk to better health. That’s it. Walk after dinner or to run errands. Walk the dog or with a friend. Even if for only five minutes, just walk and you will see a difference.

See a doctor for a preventive or wellness check-up.This will be one of biggest benefits of Obamacare. People will now go to the doctor for preventive visits. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can be managed, but you have to know.

– Eat smaller portions. This is the most sustainable diet you can do. Start by leaving “bites for the cook” when you eat. Just don’t overload your plate or when you eat a snack, put the product in a small bowl and don’t eat from the bag or container. We keep lightly salted mixed nuts and small fruits (blueberries, grapes, e.g.) around and use them as snacks rather than chips.

There are many more ideas I could throw out, but let’s stick with those three. Since I retired, I graze during the day eating five or six small meals – the three main meals and usually two or three snacks. I try not to overeat at any of them. I would encourage you also to eat more calories earlier in the day and try not to eat too late, so your body can burn the calories.

I would ask my readers to share their ideas as well, but my main purpose is to suggest small steps that you can do and sustain. Diets will eventually fail unless you make changes that you can live with each day. Walking is easier to start and continue and, if you miss a few days, you can easily pick it up again. Best wishes on keeping your train on the track and avoiding the train wreck later in life.



8 thoughts on “Prevention and Wellness – we are train wrecks waiting to happen

  1. i heard a story recently of an overweight person who went to a doctor (here in ecuador) and requested blood pressure meds. the doctor told him, ‘i want you to start walking over the bridge every day for the next two weeks and come back and see me. bottom line was the doctor put him on an exercise/intelligent-eating regime, and the man lost weight, and of course his blood pressure problems eventually evaporated.

    i was also told that some doctors here are disgusted at the lack of pro-active measures toward wellness- they see too many people who just want a pill and don’t want to go to the root of the problem and change lifestyle/diet. i also often hear refreshing stories of people who move here and wean off of their medications, strictly because of a healthier diet!

    between sugar, aspartame, msg and following trendy diets, many people choose to stay ignorant of the dangers and wonder why they’re not well!

    • Z, well said. Many feel that it is not a successful doctor’s visit without a Rx in hand when they leave. People speak of less heart disease in France and other Mediterranean places and which is in evidence there in Ecuador. I used to work with a doctor who focused on improving health for employees/ retirees of clients. He and I were at a meeting in Cannes and were walking back from dinner. He said that there are three key reasons for the reduced heart disease there – France is a walking culture. You walk to and from dinner. Plus, the meals are more elongated where conversation occurs which reduces stress through the social activity of eating. Finally, the meals and portions are healthier.

      In America, we eat fast, we eat a lot and we eat poorly. Plus, we may have driven through a drive through service to get it. Your comment on your low blood pressure on your post this weekend is prima facie evidence of what can happen from walking and socializing with others along the way. Thanks for your comment, BTG

  2. great post! hubby had very similar results with his first colonoscopy and he had to go back in 3 years. I’m on the 10 year plan, thank goodness! and speaking of walks, we love to walk!! and just returned from a 40 minute walk around our local park’s lake. felt great!! I don’t think we got to 60 today but it was darn close! enjoy the rest of your Sunday 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Toby. Keep up the walking, especially if it gives you a chance for you and hubby to walk (and maybe even hold hands). Enjoy your week. Our Sunday finally turned better after a rainy Saturday that carried over.

  3. and oh yea…I have struggled with weight issues my entire life. I try to eat only low fat and low calorie snacks but I also treat myself occasionally. I love blizzards at DQ for example but I don’t eat them every day. but I highly recommend Weight Watchers if you can afford it. The last several times I’ve done the online version and it works great for me. they train you how to eat properly. the hard part is sticking to eating that way 🙂 All things in moderation is a good motto.

    • A colleague and I used to celebrate a good meeting coming back home with a Heath Bar Blizzard. Yum. I was thinner then, but what a treat. Exit 70 on I-85. It is no longer there, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for my waist line). We have never done the Weight Watchers program other than ordering a few odds and ends. Your last phrase applies to so many things. Thanks for stopping by. BTG

  4. Note to Readers: Responding to Toby’s love of DQ reminded me of a small thing, which I found makes a big difference. Two suggestions when you have that “I gotta have some ice cream” craving. First, Weight Watchers has excellent and small portioned ice cream treats. Second, and my personal favorite, eat Italian Ice instead. This is very low in calories and will satisfy the craving.

  5. Pingback: A few ideas for better health management | musingsofanoldfart

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