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.