A Healthy Responsibility

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Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine
and does not know
 which has best helped it to grow,
it is difficult to say
whether the hard things
or the pleasant things did me the most good.
(Lucy Larcom)

Every day we encounter opinions, messages, and images about health. The data is out there, but the stories seem to change constantly. The recipe starts with a dollop of fad diets, then you add a big scoop of misinformation, mix in medication, and end up with a bowl of confusion.

The truth is, everyone is different. Our bodies, minds, backgrounds, and daily routines are different. We change over time, the environment changes, and what was once considered “healthy” also changes. Figuring out how to live our best life, and how to approach our personal health can be overwhelming.

I’ve always found health and wellness interesting. I grew up as a competitive athlete and started practicing yoga over 15 years ago. I completed yoga teacher training last year because I wanted to learn more about my body and the practice of healthy living. Over the years, my weight has fluctuated and my diet has varied, but I have always considered myself a healthy person. One of the things I do to maintain good health is go to the doctor for annual exams.

Recently, I tried out a new doctor and she suggested a round of blood tests. Things went well until it was time to discuss my cholesterol, which was higher than the recommended range. The doctor asked if I ate a lot of fried foods? No, not really. I used to be a vegetarian, but I’m more of a “flexitarian” these days. Is that to blame? Or, is it the egg I eat every morning for breakfast? She said it could be hereditary, recommended some dietary changes and a few supplements, then sent me along my way. I left feeling worried and confused.

In my search for answers and guidance, I learned there’s a lot of different information about cholesterol. The same person, with the same test results, interpreted by two different physicians, in two different regions, could have very different outcomes. One doctor may give praise for good health, while the other prescribes cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

Doctors have written books that say my cholesterol levels are healthy, and even promote long-term mental acuity. But, there are also government health sites that say my doctor was correct to sound the alarms. Confusing and contrary information exists for many other important, health-related topics. It can be so hard to determine what’s true!

For now, I’m taking personal responsibility for my health and keeping an eye on things. I’m exercising regularly, avoiding drastic changes to my diet, and continuing my research.

Through this experience I learned:

1. No one else lives here (in my body).
It helps to remind myself that I’m the only one here. The inner workings of our bodies can be confusing and strange, but it’s also pretty remarkable! Taking responsibility for my health is a balance between listening to my body and learning what modern medicine can do to measure, repair, and heal it.

2. Second opinions are worth their weight in gold.
In most circumstances, there’s time to get a second opinion. No matter the advice or ailment, I am committed to learning more than one side of the story. It’s worth the effort to get a fresh perspective. Usually you will gain reassurance that you’re on the right path – or you might discover another way to approach the situation.

3. Knowledge is useless without action.
Like most of us, I get busy and lazy and preoccupied. I don’t always feel like working out, eating right, or getting enough sleep. (Hey, there’s no shame in a little honesty!) Since my health is my responsibility, it is my duty to seek the information I need and make the choices that are best for me.

Image via Death to the Stock Photo

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