Sign Out: To thine own self be true

July 1, 2006

Since I am a member of the illustrious 50+ Club, these events cause me to pause and think about my own health and that of family and friends. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke together account for almost 60% of all deaths in the United States.1 I ask myself what I can do to reduce risk and live a safer and healthier life.

At my 30-year college reunion last year, most of us walked away thinking we hadn't changed much since college. We often heard, "You look the same" or "I feel just as good as I did 30 years ago." But when I look at the college me and the present me, I recognize that the difference includes 15 additional pounds, less exercise, and more stress. Increasingly, I realize the merits and pitfalls of youth and aging. A quote by Dorothy Fuldheim comes to mind, "...youth is a disease from which we all recover."2

Encouraging women to live safer and healthier lives through disease prevention and health promotion is part of what we do. It can be challenging to get women to care for themselves appropriately or to get the care they need; yet it is often easier than taking the time ourselves to do the same. If we would each heed the advice we so often give, we could be a better example for patients, family, colleagues, and friends.

I know that just because we know doesn't mean we do. Health-care professionals, like many others, sometimes need to be encouraged or forced to seek routine care. Because of our education and titles, we may believe we are immune to health problems or that our bodies and minds will automatically take permanent corrective action. We may even think we are doing just enough to stay healthy.

We are all busy. I know that one day you will schedule that colonoscopy or blood glucose test. I know that you'll eventually take the time to eat better, exercise, and stop smoking. Remember, the recommendations are five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables and at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most-preferably all-days of the week. I even know that you plan to take a full vacation this year, for the first time in many years, if you can work it in.

Whether you are under or over 50, how much more can you do for how much longer before you do what you need to do about your personal health? Zora Neale Hurston may have said it best, "... there are years that ask questions and years that answer."2 Make sure that the years that answer reap the benefit of the steps you take now to live a healthier life.

Take the advice you so often dispense. Assess your risks and take action. To thine own self be true.

REFERENCES

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Burden of Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors: National and State Perspectives 2004. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2004. Available at: http:// http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/burdenbook2004/.

2. R Maggio. The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press; 1996.