With the wide access we all have today to the media, there is no shortage of information about health issues. We all know that leading a healthy lifestyle enhances our quality of life and can prolong our lives. And any educated person knows that exercise, proper diet, getting a good night’s sleep and reducing our stress can prevent heart disease, stroke, cancer, and a whole host of both physiological and mental health problems. Yet with all of that knowledge, most of the population do not eat properly, do not exercise enough, are overweight or obese, and lead stressful lives. Childhood obesity in the United States has gotten so bad that, according to a 2005 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the next generation is predicted to live up to 5 years less than the current generation. If this indeed occurs, this will be the first regression in life expectancy in the history of the United States of America. So, if we know all of this, why can’t we even do the bare minimum to take care of ourselves, be healthy, and save ourselves the enormous costs, both individual and public, that being ill brings with it?
Perhaps in the back of our minds, we think that when we get sick, a doctor will give us medicine or a treatment to cure us. We may feel that having a heart attack or getting cancer only happens to “the other guy”. We might delude ourselves into thinking that we are invincible. However, the reality is that we don’t have to look far these days to see the pain, suffering and tragedy caused by illness. Baruch Hashem for our physicians who are great healers and lifesavers, without whose great knowledge and expertise, our average life expectancy would not have reached the numbers that we enjoy today. Doctors return quality of life to so many who are suffering. But needing the services of doctors and hospitals is not without risk.
• According to recent statistics, 80,000 people in the United States alone die from infections which they pick up during a hospital stay.
• Medication errors occur in nearly 20% of hospital patients. Those errors result in approximately 7,000 deaths per year.
• 20,000 deaths occur annually from non-medication errors such as diagnostic procedures or routine surgeries.
• There are 12,000 deaths per year from unnecessary surgeries.
This data does not include adverse effects associated with disability or discomfort, and we have no statistics on medical errors outside of the hospital. But we do know that on average, 10% of hospital admissions result from inappropriate and/or unnecessary treatment done in a doctor’s office.
If you have a medical issue, you must see a doctor. But remember – YOU are responsible for your health as much as, or even more than, your physician. Practice preventive health measures by living a healthy life. And something else to keep in mind…. The cost of staying healthy is far less than the cost of being sick. Make the all-important decision to be responsible for your health and your life. After all, you also have a responsibility to your family and friends to avoid bringing grief and pain into their lives whenever possible. If you need help learning how to eat right or how to exercise, see a professional to get started.
Living a healthy lifestyle is the best preventive medicine there is. It will “….add hours to your day, days to your year and years to your life.”