Take Charge of Your Health: Tips from the Air
While many of you were spending a romantic evening with your loved one on Valentine’s Day, I did a world wind tour of the US saving lives and spreading my love to patients – so to speak.
In a 41 hour span beginning early Valentine’s Day my schedule called for me to fly from Columbus, Ohio (not Columbus, Georgia where I also once lived) to Houston to El Paso to Houston to Dallas to Washington, DC, and finally back to Columbus to see a total of four patients (two patients in Houston, one in El Paso, and one in Dallas).
Some of us still make “house calls” and unfortunately that was the only weekend to make this all happen – not knowing it would be the worst weekend this winter to fly. The leg to El Paso never happened, though, due to weather – not in Texas but in Minnesota. A butterfly flapping its wings in Minnesota affects events in Texas, so they say.
We had a plane in Houston ready to go to El Paso – one of those regional jets. We had 50 some passengers. We also had pilots. Guess what we did not have? A flight attendant. She was stuck in Minnesota. So they cancelled the flight. Apparently in the 4th largest city in the country they could not find a substitute flight attendant.
Not wanting to squander a chance to help a patient reach his health goals I asked the airline (not Southwest Airlines) to “baptize” or “deputize” me as a flight attendant. I know how to pour a can a coke, and even over ice if necessary. I can show people how to fasten and unfasten a seat belt. I know CPR and how to use a defibrillator.
I can handle an unruly passenger. I can say, “Please return your seat backs to the upright and locked position.” I can even say, “Cross check complete”.
We certainly were not going to need to use our seat bottoms as floation devices as there is not an ounce of water between Houston and El Paso. So I wasn’t going to have to worry about ushering passengers out the emergency exists for a water landing.
But, they said “no” due to government regulations requiring a “certified” flight attendant. So 50 some people had their lives interrupted on Love Day (one young lady was sobbing as she trying to get to El Paso for her sister’s funeral) unnecessarily because government regulation trumps common sense.
Take Charge of Your Health
Now from Houston to Dallas I did fly Southwest and saw a helpful article in their Spirit flight magazine (February, page 39 by Alan Fox) which is where the medical part of this post comes into play. The article had to do with personal and professional success.
Mr. Fox gave 5 tips for success. I try to apply any principles of success to medicine and found a couple of his success tips appropriate for staying healthy. Mr. Fox is also author of the book, Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity.
Buy a Ticket
What can you do to take charge of your health?
I want to apply two of his tips to health. His first tip was called Buy a Ticket. This is straight from the article. “You can’t expect to win the lottery if you don’t first buy a ticket. Be an active participant in your own success”, Fox says. “Each of us has the power to effect change in our own lives. To be successful, we must understand that and not look too far outside of ourselves for solutions to our problems.”
Just substitute “health” for “success” and “healthy” for “successful” to gain more control over your health. About 75% of our health and longevity are related to our lifestyle habits, not our genes. Read as much as you can about health and wellness. Don’t rely only on what your doctor tells you.
Find someone who is healthy and fit and ask what they do. I’ve come to realize that many of these body building type in the gyms know a lot more about nutrition and exercise than medical professionals. Don’t take the easy way out with medications. Develop the self-discipline to better your health habits.
Watch the Belt Buckle
The second tip was called Watch the Belt Buckle. This is a reference to football players who are taught to focus on the opposing player’s belt buckle, because where the belt buckle goes so goes the player. Players can give you head and eye fakes, but the belt buckle tells you which direction they’re really going.
Mr. Fox commented that very often there is a difference between what people say and do. Some people “fake us out”. Don’t be fooled by those individuals. So pay attention to action not words.
And, that is true for your doctor. It’s well known that many cardiothoracic surgeons are chain smokers. And, when it comes to smoking, nurses may be the biggest offenders. Watch your doctor’s actions. It’s easy. Just take a close look at him or her. Does he or she look healthy and fit?
Doctors pay a lot of lip service to exercise and nutrition, but that’s about all. In general, doctors are not well educated in these fundamentals of health. I recommend you find a doctor who walks the walk. Do you have a doctor who is trying to always push you on a medication? If so, I suggest you find someone else who is a better role model – someone who teaches you how to catch your own fish, and not give you a fish (medication – unless really necessary).
I learned this lesson this my first few months in practice. Out of training I started practice at the well known Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. One of my early patients had an abnormal EKG and I referred him to a cardiologist that the clinic used. I did not know the cardiologist.
I saw the patient six weeks later and asked him how things went with the cardiologist. He looked at me and said, “Have you ever seen him?” I said “No”. He said, “Well, he weighs over 300 pounds and had a pack of cigarettes in shirt pocket. I can’t believe your clinic refers patients to him. I’m sure he’s good, but he’s not a good role model.” I did not refer another patient to that cardiologist.
Take charge of your health and seek out a doctor who walks the walk and whose goal and motivation is to get you to become independent of the medical system, and not dependent on it – to get you to optimal health and not just out of illness.
But, more importantly take charge of your health now. Don’t wait for tomorrow. It’s the best way to protect yourself from our collapsing healthcare system that is in big trouble as it gets swamped, swallowed up, and boondoggled with increasing government regulation.