I am currently shifting focus on this blog since I now find myself in a different phase of life as I am staring down 40. I also have 3 very young children. My wife and I put most of what we have into raising these kids. There is no doubt that we will be very busy for the next 15-20 years. We have also tried very hard to live responsibly when it comes to our finances and expect that we will have most of the bills fully paid by the time the kids start leaving the house… which will put me at about age 55 or 60.
The irony here is that many Americans are on this same path… work hard to raise your kids, save for retirement, all the while neglecting your own health. Then when you finally reach the “golden years,” you may have a wad of money in the bank and a wonderful family but you are too busy dealing with the complications of high-blood pressure and diabetes to actually enjoy those years. This is insane. I am setting out to radically modify this approach in my own life. However, the real benefit is that by focusing on my own health, I will change the cultural norms within my own family…and then pass them on to my kids and grandkids. So even if my health has not been a high priority, as a parent, I am obligated to make it a priority for the sake of my kids and grandkids. So moving forward, I plan to shift the concept of this blog to Heathy Parents… Healthy Kids!
Know your opponent
Most educated people spend their time worrying about things that are very unlikely to have an impact on their health. Things like organic and BPA-free seem to be the hot topics these days. While educating ourselves about these things may be part of making healthy choices, they are not the things that are likely to end our life early or sap the vitality out of those “golden years.”
Nope. The things that will get us are listed in the chart below. I will spend the next several months going through them one-by-one. With each disease on this list, I will examine the medical literature and try to determine what steps I should take to maximize the chances that I can prevent them or delay the onset as long as possible. No one can live forever and I certainly have no desire to do so. However, what I am focused on is what my health will be at age 55 or 60. If I play my cards right, it will be excellent, and I will have 30 or more years to enjoy those kids my wife I worked so hard to raise. Decades to travel with my wife and do all the things we may have put on hold while raising our kids. As I am writing this it is truly ironic that we put so much time into financial planning for retirement, with so little thought as to how to arrive there in good health.
So heart attack is still #1 and cancer is not far behind. The next 3 (stroke, emphysema/COPD, and Alzheimer’s) are things that often do not kill us right away. Rather they but sap us of vitality and functionality leading to a slow demise. What is really amazing is the next chart that looks at modifiable risk factors for developing these killers. Virtually all of these things are modifiable, or even curable, with life-style improvements.
Public Enemy #1
So first I plan to set my sights on heart disease and figuring out exactly what I need to do to achieve optimal heart health. There is a wealth of confusion on this topic. So I will try and go through things systematically using the following approach:
- What are the specific modifiable risk factors for each disease?
- What are the specific non-medication modifications that can reduce or eliminate risk?
- How can I reasonably incorporate these things into my life?
- How can I measure success?
A few key words above that are worth repeating. Non-medication is a big one. It has been well established that life-style modifications are superior in every respect to medication when it comes to preventing and treating most chronic illness. I am in search of optimal health and popping a pill each day is not going to get me there. The other keyword is reasonable. Drinking fresh beet juice that I grow in a backyard organic garden may be reasonable for some people, but it is not reasonable for me. Neither is exercising for 2 hours a day or becoming a vegan. The key to optimal health is putting something into practice that I can actually do… not for a few weeks but for a life-time.