Don't overlook the gift of good health

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 27. April 2013 10:26

I need to drop the political line of thought for this week and go back to the obesity issue. My motivation to do this comes from one of my Open Heart Recovery nurses. Having read my blogs about our national weight problem, this nurse commented that I must not like fat people.

Whoa. Stop the train.

My commentary had nothing to do with my likes or dislikes. Interpreting what I said as an expression of my disdain for the calorically enhanced is a convenient tool for dismissing my comments so that one need not confront the truth of them. I have lots of friends. If you looked at them as a group, their weight distribution would parallel that of the general population. I don’t use weight as a friendship filter.

Between my personal background and my professional one, I have been aware of the brevity and fragility of one’s health and existence since I was very young. Being a heart surgeon, I am certainly far more sensitized to the consequences of a lifetime of bad healthcare decisions. It’s what I deal with every day.

Good health is a gift. Perhaps the most overlooked gift. Its value is never recognized until it’s taken away. Only then do we develop the insight we should have had all the way along.

Chronically overeating is painless. In actuality having a good, big meal is very satisfying. The appeal of this satisfaction seems to be self-reinforcing, so much so that most people seem to be unable to restrain their portion sizes on their own.

How much you eat is regulated by you and you alone. My big thing is personal responsibility for one’s health. This is something I preach every day when I’m seeing patients in the office.

As a country, we’re all in this together. Our healthcare industry is a resource with tremendous capability by limited capacity. We need to use it and the insurance industry that supports it with a constant eye to this fact.

Insurance is fundamentally a shared risk pool. We all contribute to it so that in the event of some unforeseen event, it will be there for us. If those among us intentionally pursue behaviors that knowingly increase the odds of a significant health problem, they are selfishly using more of the limited capacity of the healthcare industry. The word selfish would disappear from the previous sentence if those same individuals contributed to the insurance pool in an amount proportionately aligned with their anticipated need for future care.

We all would like to think that the problems with our healthcare are someone else’s fault. That’s easy. That’s convenient. That gets each of us off the hook from having to face the fact that maybe, just maybe we may be part of the problem by how we treat ourselves.

I’ll be out next week. I’m entered in the One Lap of America race. I use this race as an opportunity to raise money for and increase awareness of the American Heart Association. It’s a blast. Follow me in my #20 blue and white Mustang GT as we cover between four and five thousand miles next week. The car magazine “Motor Trend” will be covering the event again this year. They will be updating their coverage of the race daily on their web site.

And, yes, I really try to eat healthy stuff when we’re on the road. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it.


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