If you were asked to rate your overall health and well-being, what areas of your life would you evaluate to determine a response? Most would factor in their current medical conditions, weight, diet, level of fitness, and simply how they feel at the moment to produce an answer. While these questions take into account physical health, they neglect one’s overall wellness.
Areas of our lives including relations with family and friends, jobs, emotional and mental health, stress, the economy; they all play a role in determining our overall well-being. Imagine all the aspects of your life represent the individual wooden bricks in a game of Jenga. In Jenga the object is to remove as many bricks as you can before the tower comes crashing down. Regrettably most adults unknowingly view their lives much like a game of Jenga. Removing a brick is similar to neglecting aspects of your life which at the moment seem unimportant. Overtime these simple acts of neglect add up, weakening an individual until one day…Jenga!
The cause for this unintentional neglect stems from errors in self perception and prioritization. In a 2010 study conducted by the Philips Center for Health and Well-being, the raw data showed that “74% of Americans rate their overall health and well-being as very good or good”(PRNewswire). The Philips Center then asked the survey participants to rate the importance of varying aspects of their lives, creating a weighted statistical analysis. The result, participants overall health and well-being rating dropped to 55%. The reason for this 19 point drop is due to a disconnect between our perceived and actual well-being. According to the National Center for Health Statistics 67% of Americans are overweight or obese. In the study, only 39% of the participants considered themselves to be overweight or obese. When participants were asked to rate their overall fitness, 80% declared they were in excellent health. The CDC states 36% of Americans do not exercise at all, and 32.5% exercise only once every 4 weeks. This data reveals an alarming disconnect between our perceived and actual health, but what is the source?
Most of us lead extremely busy lives and are forced to prioritize. As a result many of the things we should do get pushed to the wayside. Why should someone spend the extra money on a gym membership, yearly visits to the doctor, or healthier food when they feel fine? Instead of purchasing a gym membership, someone could save up for their next oil change, baby diapers, or a flat screen TV.
It becomes even harder to be preventative when times are tough. Try and tell someone they should schedule their yearly dental cleaning when they are out of work and lost their health insurance. There is very little incentive to be preventative when it comes to one’s health. It’s a conscious choice that we all must struggle to make. Just because you are healthy today does not mean you will be healthy tomorrow, and prevention is the cheapest way to remain healthy. Thirty six dollars a month for a gym membership pales in comparison to a $30,000-$40,000 dollar heart bypass surgery.
There are literary hundreds of other examples I could give in an attempt to scare people into adopting a preventative lifestyle. The truth is, developing a preventative lifestyle is a difficult choice to make since its rewards go largely unnoticed. When you were young, how did you figure out a stove top was hot? You likely burnt the heck out of your hand and never placed it there again (deliberately). Sadly for most health conditions there is no learning curve. You can only develop conditions like diabetes once. Be healthy. Be preventative.