Looking Ahead To 2004

The best years of your life are the ones in which you
decide your problems are your own.
You do not blame them on your mother,
the ecology or the president.
You realize that you control your own destiny.
– Albert Ellis

Well, 2004 is here. And it is going to be here for the next 365 days. So, what are you going to do to stay healthy and happy and perhaps control your own destiny in areas of mental and physical health?

It’s a simple question. Can we find a good and a simple answer for you? Let us give it a try!

First, you need to take stock of your current situation. Then you need to have some idea of what you expect to achieve in the next 363 days (two days have already gone by!).

Do you have any risk factors – genetic, environmental, or lifestyle habits – which make you prone to mental and physical ill health? If yes, then you need to take actions to reduce these risks factors and if possible to eliminate them.

If you do not have any risk factors then you need to take actions which will keep you healthy and happy for many years to come.

As we know, our health is determined by many things. Our genes play an important role. So do our environment and the lifestyle we choose to pursue.

About hundred years ago, many lives were lost in infancy and childhood or before the age of 50. This was due to malnutrition and infection.

Since then we have made progress. Now a child born in Canada can expect to live to about 80 years. Many factors have contributed to our longevity – improvement in nutrition, public hygiene, discovery of antibiotics, introduction of immunization programs, newer and better methods of understanding, diagnosing and treating many illnesses.

Now we seem to take life for granted – especially in the industrialized and affluent countries we live in. Very few people die of infection or malnutrition. Instead we have an epidemic of obesity – which leads to diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses and disabilities.

The prevalence of diabetes in Canada is increasing. The proportion of Canadians with diabetes rose from 3.4 percent in 1994/95 to an estimated 4.5 percent in 2000/01.

Heart disease, stroke, cancer and lung diseases (most of them related to smoking) take its own toll. Use and abuse of alcohol costs our health care system billions of dollars. A British government sponsored report found that “average drinkers” today are consuming 150 percent more alcohol than their counterparts did 50 years ago.

Motor vehicle accidents and other types of accidents kill and disable many of our young people.

So, is this how life is going to be? Or can we change it? Or can we be selfish enough to keep ourselves and our families out of trouble?

We cannot change our genes. But we can make a contribution to improve our environment. We can try and reduce stress and make better lifestyle choices. Yes, lifestyle choices! Healthy lifestyle choices.

Here are few suggestions – eat right, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, quit smoking, wear a seatbelt, drive carefully, and watch your alcohol intake. Make time for laughter, meditation and family.

Making changes is not always easy. But one has to make a commitment and go for it. You may have to make some sacrifices but in the long run it will be a good investment.

It is estimated that if you live up to 80, then the last 10 years of your life will be spent fighting some sort of disease or disability. This burden may be reduced if we take care of our health during our better days.

So, 2004 is here. And you have to make some choices – yes, choices. Make sure they are healthy ones!

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

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