Health depends on a number of factors – genetics, lifestyle, exposure to unknown toxic substances, and luck. You can live the healthiest lifestyle and still get cancer. A few lucky people can break every lifestyle rule for good health and still live to a ripe old age. Unfortunately, you do not know for sure which hand you are dealt. Currently, most people live in a state of denial with their health risks and this prevents preparation for the likelihood of potentially bad outcomes. Wouldn’t it be better if we accepted our health risks and planned for those outcomes in advance?
Doctors clash frequently with patients over “compliance” – that is, following their recommendations for good health or to restore health. Examples are limitless – the patient with diabetes who refuses to give up sweets, the patient with an early family history of heart attacks who won’t give up smoking, or the patient with hypertension who won’t cut out the salt.
We all do things we know we shouldn’t do and there is always a reason. Lack of willpower in the moment, depression, peer pressure, costs in time or money, or maybe we just don’t care. Sometimes we get back on the program and sometimes we totally give up. We are human.
If you have a health risk or unhealthy lifestyle, and know that you won’t or can’t do anything to change it, take a different road.
- Let your family and health care providers know what you will or will not do to take care of your health.
- Make certain you understand the potential outcomes of your actions. For example, if you have diabetes and can’t control your diet, learn about the severe outcomes such as renal failure, heart disease, amputations, and blindness along with the minor problems such as frequent urination, thirst, and skin infections that occur. Ask your doctor specifically, “What are the major and minor problems I will develop and what will my life be like as my disease progresses?”
- Work with your doctor to determine your attitude towards health care. Do you want to receive as much as doctors can offer to mitigate your lifestyle choices? Or would you prefer to avoid the health care system as much as possible?
- Get the appropriate insurance in place immediately before you become uninsurable – life, disability, and long-term care insurance.
- Finalize your advance directives by completing a living will, naming a health care surrogate, and documenting the quality of life that is appropriate for you. Share this information with all family members and health care professionals who could potentially have a say in your care.
- Take care of the rest of your affairs. Complete a will, durable power of attorney, and create a list of who you want to get specific personal items. Plan your memorial service and funeral.
It is important to reassess your attitudes periodically. Maybe previous stress in your life has gone away, and now it is possible to prepare healthier meals. Or you have a new job that allows you to take a 30 minute walking break at lunch. Every little bit of action you take toward your health has the opportunity to improve the outcome or at least make you feel better. Life is not static, and our attitudes are not static either.
By preparing for who you are instead of who you want to be, you can decrease frustration with yourself, your family, and your health care providers. Everyone will be more realistically prepared for the potential outcomes which will save time, heartache, and money. This will help you, your family, and your health care providers have a more harmonious relationship for the rest of your life.