Healthy Lifestyle Changes Reduce Healthcare Dependence

Healthy Lifestyle Changes Are The Answer

Smart medical consumers know the importance of healthy lifestyle changes. They also know we don’t need to wait for the medical profession or the government to figure out a solution to the chronic disease epidemics that threaten to bankrupt the country.

We can take the bull-by-the-horn ourselves with healthy lifestyle changes.

Learning to minimize your dependence on our healthcare system – with all its dangers and unnecessary expense documented in Our Healthcare Sucks – isn’t easy. But it isn’t as difficult as many perceive it to be either.

It does require committing to making healthy lifestyle changes – not those you see on TV or get as spam in your emails, but those that are clinically proven to reduce disease risk and improve disease recovery.

It starts with assessing your current lifestyle behaviors and determining which of these may be adversely contributing to your medical conditions or concerns. If you already have a diagnosed medical condition, confirm the diagnosis, learn all you can about it, and assemble a multi-disciplinary medical team to help you manage it. And make sure you’ve gotten a second opinion before agreeing to aggressive medical interventions.

And discuss with your doctor what healthy lifestyle changes are most likely to improve your condition and reduce your need for medications and further medical interventions. if she or he is unresponsive, consider finding another doctor – because there’s always a role for healthy lifestyle changes at any stage of treatment.

Pre-Disease Is Prevalent

If you don’t yet have a diagnosed medical condition, you probably realize this doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have disease in your body – just that none has yet been diagnosed.

There are almost 80 million Americans, for example, with “pre-diabetes” – more than three times as many as there are diagnosed diabetics. The same holds true for high blood pressure, only the numbers are much larger – 9 out of 10 Americans will end up with high blood pressure (hypertension) that can cause heart attack, brain attack (stroke), Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, and more.

Pre-disease lurks in all of us, waiting to be triggered by one too many bad lifestyle choices. Or if we’re smart about it, they’ll remain dormant and non-threatening because of the healthy lifestyle changes we make to help stave them off.

Thinking people don’t wait to be struck by lightning. They take control of their health – not just their healthcare, but their health. This requires building some muscle – not just physical muscle, though building lean muscle strength (not size) is a core requirement for healthy longevity – but mental muscle as well. And you build both when you carefully make the healthy lifestyle changes that best target your primary medical concerns.

Who’s The Boss?

Living a long and vibrant life requires physical and mental activity every day, and a mental commitment to becoming the CEO of the rest of your life. Being CEO means you’re in charge, but it also means you’re responsible for your own results. It means leading – leading your own life in a health-conscious manner, leading your medical team if you need one, and leading others – especially your family – with the healthy lifestyle choices you make.

It also means being accountable – mostly to yourself. CEO’s don’t get to be CEO’s without some planning, and planning requires research. Truly healthy lifestyle choices don’t rely on anecdotal TV advice of a medical guru or self-appointed fitness expert about how best to live and be healthy.

It looks, instead, to what the published evidence tells us applies to the most people with the least risk of harm – because the wrong lifestyle choices for you can prove as harmful as the dangerous medical interventions I usually caution you about.

In short, you”ll need to adapt this research to your own circumstances, including any personal medical conditions requiring medical supervision of the healthy lifestyle changes you decide to implement.  

Patience, Grasshopper

Increased physical activity, for example, is generally one of the best healthy lifestyle changes you can make – as close to a “magic pill” as there is. But even it can be harmful if you’re out of condition and start too aggressively.

A study in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) found that becoming physically active even after middle-age had the same longevity benefit as having been active throughout one’s life – apparently, it’s never too late to get started – and that doing so had the same long-term health benefit as quitting smoking.[1]

However, for those starting to exercise in the 50-60 year old age group, their short-term mortality risk actually increased substantially (by 164%!). This underscores the importance of moderation and medical supervision even for healthy lifestyle changes for those past middle-age and those with active disease and/or on medications (increased physical activity can impact the effectiveness of certain medications, meaning current doses may need adjustment by your physician).

The same risk or greater presumably applies to those over 60, so use caution and increase your exercise intensity gradually. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Conversely, those with existing medical conditions are often fearful of the risks of physical activity and may forego it altogether. This is generally a mistake, as modest physical activity can often improve many medical conditions.

A Second Chance

Maybe Congress and the White House can’t truly reform healthcare, but we can certainly reform our own lives with healthy lifestyle choices without any help from them.

Only we, as individuals, have the power to change the way we choose to live our lives. And it is a choice.

Think about the choices you’ve made over your life. Would you make different choices if you had to do it over again?

Your lifestyle choices represent one area where you CAN have another chance to decide differently how to live your life. We don’t have to continue eating the same junk foods just because that’s what we’ve done for however many years.

Maybe these were less dangerous choices years and decades ago – with younger bodies more resistant to disease. But they’re worse choices with every day that passes – not just for their detrimental health effects on our aging bodies, but for the extra weight and visceral belly fat they produce when we can no longer metabolize and eliminate them properly.

Commit To Learning

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This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only.

It does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.
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[1] Total mortality after changes in leisure time physical activity in 50 year old men: 35 year follow-up of population-based cohort. BMJ 2009;338:b688.
This article if for informational and educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.
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John Lynch: John Lynch was founder and CEO of Medical Diagnostics, Inc. - twice named to Business Week's "Best Small Companies" in America. He's since founded MedSmart Members to publish consumer health education publications.
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