When it comes to your health, ‘feeling fine’ is not good enough

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor

I feel very fortunate that over the years I have earned the trust and respect of many of the finest doctors in the Greenwich area while also developing unique friendships with them.

Because of these friendships, I’ve been able to discuss openly with them many of their frustrations and shock with their patients. They tell me what they observe about how so many people are flat out arrogant regarding their health. And this isn’t just their observation. It’s mine as well.

As I have pointed out many times in past commentary, it is shocking and extremely disturbing how many educated, successful adults are oblivious, naive or conveniently ignorant about their health. Honestly, I ask these people, how many times has their doctor strongly suggested they lose weight or quit smoking or exercise more? Do you know how many times a doctor has said to me, “We have some patients that have missed years of doctors’ appointments.” I find this hard to believe.

Most of these patients are, of course, men, because they say they’re “too busy” or they “feel fine.” There is not enough fear out there. If more 25- or 30-year-olds started dropping dead of heart attacks, there would be some fear. How about the overweight alcohol-drinking guy or gal who every day “has to” have a drink or two to “unwind”? What about the 50-year-old who can’t remember when the last time was they had a physical. Well, oops, now one of those people has prostate cancer and because they didn’t go for their yearly physical it wasn’t caught earlier.

Most people seem to only remember what their cholesterol and blood pressure are because they don’t look at their lab results. They have the attitude of “Why bother?” Well, the truth is that unless you have a chemical addiction, you are responsible for your own behavior and must accept the consequences of inaction and inattention.

We live in a quick fix society. Got high cholesterol? Just take a pill. High blood pressure? Just take a pill. Got brittle bones? Have some supplements. Doctors know all too well that even the best lifestyle behavior does not guarantee a long and healthy life, but you can at least put yourself in a position to delay or prevent the so-called “inevitable.”

I know I sound like a broken record, but diabetes, high blood pressure, brittle bones, joint/back pain, cardiac issues, forms of dementia, and even obesity can be delayed or prevented with just some better judgment, exercise and by re-evaluating priorities. Doctors and health/fitness professionals always get a chuckle and would love to simply laugh out loud when they see a patient or client who is 30 pounds overweight, smokes, has a family history of high blood pressure, clotting or other maladies and is shocked and amazed when they’re told they have diabetes or circulation problems.

Why should they be shocked? You would be if you were in great health with no family history and exercise regularly, but you shouldn’t act puzzled if none of those things are true and your doctor tells you your physical is a disaster. I can’t tell you how many times a doctor has said to me, “Mike, these are people who have the means and education to better themselves” and are shocked because they simply choose not to do it. Doctors are puzzled when they see women with a history of osteoporosis in their family not lifting weights and why people with family histories of heart problems and diabetes still drink like a fish and don’t watch their weight.

I guess they simply “feel fine” so they don’t feel they have any reason to worry.

Most doctors cannot chase after you or be your personal life coaches. It’s up to the people themselves to take the steps they need to take. And this is important, because there can be tragic consequences to inaction. How many people out there lost a friend or a loved one or a family member or even a patient because they didn’t take care of themselves? Is it too harsh to say these people deserved what they got because they did nothing to be better? Maybe so, but sometimes the brutal truth is what people need to hear so they can do everything in their power to become better.

So by all means, keep telling yourself you feel fine. Have two glasses of wine with your tossed salad at lunch. Buy that next pack of cigarettes. Supersize it next time you’re at McDonald’s. People need to face the truth about what they’re doing to themselves and how they need to take it upon themselves to care for their health and well-being.

Mike Pernice is a Greenwich-based personal trainer and lifestyle management personality with more than 20 years of expertise. He has been featured on Extra and has been interviewed by local media and the Associated Press. He is there to help people, whether they’re famous celebrities, executives or stay-at-home moms. He can be reached at Miperfitness.com.

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