One analogy that I have found useful in thinking about your health is to treat your mind and body as though it is your car, BUT you only get one car in your lifetime! If this were true, I am sure most people would take particular care of this car, just like most do of the actual cars they have.
- You would probably remember to fill up the gas tank with appropriate gasoline (or electricity) before it gets empty. This is like eating healthy food and making sure you have adequate vitamins and minerals before you run into nutrition problems (hopefully staving off obesity if you can).
- You would not let your car just sit in the driveway. You would drive it around to see how it functions and to get you to the places you need to go. This is like getting regular exercise and not spending too much time on a couch in front of the television or on your phone.
- You would take the car for scheduled checkups to look for things you cannot readily see (e.g. oil leaks, an assessment of your brakes and tire treads). If something is found lacking (e.g. you need new tires) you would fix it before you get into trouble (e.g. you do not wait for a tire blowout on the road which may lead to a car crash in traffic). It costs a lot less to replace a tire than it does to repair a crashed car (and possibly repair yourself if you get injured in a crash)! Likewise, you need to take yourself for periodic medical checkups to make sure you are staying healthy and to identify any potential medical problems before they get out of hand. These regular checkups together with appropriate treatment is what is called primary care, and I cannot underscore enough the importance of this.
- You would periodically screen your car (e.g. a walk around inspection) to identify any other problems you may need to deal with (e.g. a headlight that is broken or not working). Similarly, you should get certain health screening tests for things like high blood pressure, breast, and prostate cancer. Now I know that many people are afraid of screening tests which may find something wrong that they do not want to know about. However, if you decide not to get a checkup (perhaps you want to avoid the cost), you may be only fooling yourself since the medical problem is there regardless of whether you know about it. For example, not getting your blood pressure checked does not prevent high blood pressure! And if you have early high blood pressure, it is better to treat it early when you can prevent its many consequences such as heart failure, stroke, kidney failure. A beloved relative of mine did not adequately treat his high blood pressure until his kidneys failed and he had to go for kidney dialysis for hours at a time, 3 times a week! This last situation was obviously more costly in terms of payments, pain, and suffering, than if he had taken appropriate medication early to prevent this. The same is true of catching cancer early when it is most treatable, rather than waiting for it to spread throughout your body. It is also true of mental illnesses such as depression which can be treated early to minimize pain and suffering.
Now I think taking care of your body is much more important than taking care of your car for several reasons:
- You cannot work effectively to make a living for yourself if your body is failing. This is particularly true for those of us who work with our hands and feet (e.g. construction work, service jobs, manufacturing), but even most desk jobs require good eyesight and a sound mind.
- Although some body parts are replaceable (e.g. joints, organ transplants), many are not. (You cannot replace your brain if you have a stroke). Additionally, we do not have enough organs suitable for transplant for all the folks that need them, and many die while waiting for such a transplant. Better to have avoided the need for a transplant in the first place.
- You can usually buy a whole new and improved car but cannot buy yourself a new body and mind.
- You cannot enjoy driving your car or doing other things you like if you do not have good enough health.
- Your family and friends depend much more on you than they do on any car.
Your body and mind are the most important investments you will ever have! Treat them that way. 😊