preventive medicine

It’s a little mind-boggling to me how many people I know that do not believe in or take part in preventive medicine. Put simply, preventive medicine is trying to stay on top of any health problems that may occur so that should you have a serious issue develop, you will catch it in its infancy and be able to manage it well, before it grows into something full-blown, nasty, and fatal. Life is fatal, of course. We’re all going to die no matter how well or poorly we take care of ourselves, but there’s a difference between growing to a ripe old age, the body slowing down gradually and drifting off in your sleep, as many of us hope to go one day, versus discovering, for example, in the prime of your life you have a fatal cancer that could have been managed and even cured, had you tended to it earlier.

My Mom went to high school with a couple of women who were her best friends and remained so all of their lives. The one woman, let’s call her Tammy, was always overweight, had little regard for healthfulness, fitness, any sort of moderation or balance. She wanted to live life to the fullest in every capacity and could never be tied down. She never married or had kids, and spent a lot of her free time cooking rich, fatty dishes and consuming them all by herself. She developed Diabetes in her 50s, and the doctor gave her a number of recommendations on how to change her life. She had no intention of doing all that “no fun” stuff. No way was she going to live on tree bark and start being some kind of exercise freak. “I’m going to live life the way I want and enjoy myself until I’m gone,” was her mantra, basically.

As her diabetes progressed, she first lost one big toe, then the other, severely limiting her ability to get around. She fell down the stairs at her home and was badly injured, and nobody came around to inquire after her when she didn’t answer her phone for several days. She had to be hospitalized. Once she got back to her previous state of “good health” she found her kidneys had started to fail and she had to go to dialysis once a week. Gradually, her eyesight started to go and she went partially blind and could no longer drive herself to the appointments, and couldn’t afford to take a cab. Friends took her now and again, and sometimes she used a service provided by the clinic where she got treatments, but she generally just couldn’t be bothered with it. She died a couple of years ago, at age 69.

Mom and Tammy’s other friend has smoked all her life and started to have very bad GI problems some years back. She never wanted to go to a big city to see a specialist who could really diagnose and treat whatever was wrong with her, and has lived in misery for several years, limiting what she can eat more and more until she is now rail-thin and has no strength. She cannot stand to cook herself a meal anymore, and can’t ride in the car long enough to come to Cleveland and visit my Mom. If Mom wants to see her, she has to to her. Nobody knows precisely what’s wrong, and we likely won’t, as long as she continues to live, however much longer that is.

My Mother has her own problems, they come with aging, as things do. She has pretty bad arthritis and can’t eat a lot at night like a lot of older ladies do. But at 71, she still goes to Silver Sneakers pretty much every single day. She gets out of the house and takes care of her errands and goes for walks, does her own shopping and cleaning and cooking.

Which one do you want to be?

Get a physical. Do it.

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