It seems people are always talking about (and demanding) Rights. With Rights, though, come Responsibilities. Here are a few thoughts on how patients can be more responsible for their own well-being.

The single most valuable piece of advice, a refrain echoed time and time again by physicians, is taking proper care of one’s body to avoid problems in the first place. This is something that the individual (and family) must practice, but the government can promote. Our current system rewards getting ill while providing little direct incentive to practice wellness. It costs a lot less to address obesity in a child than to perform a coronary bypass operation. It costs less to prevent smoking (or help a smoker quit that addiction,) than to treat lung cancer, emphysema, and heart problems, premature births and infant deaths (amongst the problems caused by first-hand smoke, let along second-hand smoke.)

Even what we eat makes a profound difference. A finding within The China Study shows that eating plants is safer than eating animals. Dr. Canpbell comments “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored.” But the meat producers of America would be offended by it, so let’s not talk about that. The fact is that advertising sends a slew of mixed messages about this topic.

Removing soft drinks from one’s diet is likely to make one healthier overall. The high fructose corn syrup in them is just one of the problems with drinking them regularly. Consuming too much sugar is a bad idea overall; contributing to Type-two diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. So many of these diseases could be avoided entirely if we just didn’t drink the stuff in the first place.

Even a little exercise helps. Ideally, moderate exercise would be best, but just taking regular 15 minute walks can make a tremendous difference in one’s well-being. Sitting around on the couch, sucking down sodas or beer and eating junk food isn’t neutral or passive. It’s actively contributing to illness and poor health, causing disease.

Dr. Joel Saper’s statement “The pursuit of savings by government agencies often misses the point that good care at almost any price is less costly than bad care at almost any savings,” holds true for the individual as well. Taking good care of yourself in the first place is a lot less expensive and better for you than being treated for the disorders caused by not taking personal responsibility for your health and well being.

Just as doctors, dentists, midwives, health spa owners, and other health care providers must take steps prevent the financial ills that stem from frivolous medical malpractice law suits, Internet defamation of character and unwarranted requests for refunds, patients must tend to their own well being. An apple a day may not keep the doctor away all by itself, but eating well, being active every day and avoiding health hazards is a great way to keep from the pain and expenses of illness and disease. Take good care of yourself!