Friday, June 10, 2011

The Power Prevention

One of my favorite sites is the Huffington Post.  It's got some great articles, especially about health, nutrition and mindfulness.  This week, I read an article called Wellness In the Workplace and the second paragraph caught my eye
At this point it is common knowledge that American health outcomes are not in good shape. In a nation where, according to the CDC, more than 75 percent of health care spending is related to chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and respiratory conditions -- many of which are preventable -- it has become imperative to examine the entirety of the American lifestyle...
I followed the link to the CDC website and started to read their 2009 publication, The Power of Prevention.  As I read, I was struck by a few different points:
Four modifiable health risk behaviors—lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption—are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases.

To reduce chronic disease across the nation, we must rethink our health care system. It is essential to have a coordinated, strategic prevention approach that promotes healthy behaviors, expands early detection and diagnosis of disease, supports people of every age, and eliminates health disparities. With community-based public health efforts that embrace prevention as a priority, we can become a healthier nation. 
Prevention is the magic bullet to helping reduce many of the chronic diseases that plague our country.  It is a simple concept yet so hard to do.  Knowledge does not equal action.  Prevention requires change and change requires motivation.   As discussed above, the four risk behaviors from the CDC were: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.   To change any of those behaviors requires motivation and more importantly, requires the individual to take ownership in their own role in that behavior.  Yes our food system is broken. Yes many of the nation's poor live in food deserts. Yes we are too busy to exercise. But change can still happen and only if you want it to.

My biggest barrier in helping people lose weight is when someone plays the victim card.  They can not change because something or someone else is holding them back.  With all due respect, I call BS.  Changing our behaviors is hard.  It will be difficult and there will be failure.  But if you want to prevent chronic diseases, there is no alternative.

So if you are struggling with change here are some simple things you can do:
  1. Set a SMART goal.  SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable,  Realistic and Timely.  Don't just say "I am going to exercise more".  Instead tell yourself, "I will walk for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  2. Share your goals with a friend, colleague or loved one.  Sharing a goal makes it more real and helps you stay on course.
  3. Believe that you will succeed.  Forget the past failures and remember that you are not perfect.  You should not be striving for perfection, strive for progress.  
  4. Find a support system to help you.  Part of the reason 12-step programs like Overeaters Anonymous and Nicotine Anonymous work is because there is a sponsor and group of peers there to support your success.  If a 12-step program is not your thing try finding support online through Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Ask a healthcare professional for help.  Talk to your doctor, therapist, gynecologist, dietitian or whoever you trust for advice or a referral to a provider who can help you change.
  6. Start with just one success.  Something simple like taking the stairs at work, not smoking after dinner or not drinking soda is a success.   One success leads to another and all of a sudden you are doing things you've never imagined!
We are capable of so much if we just challenge ourselves.  You can improve your health and you can live a better life.  You have the Power of Prevention!