Most doctors go into healthcare because they have an overwhelming desire to help people. Providing care is a two way street – the advice we offer is dependent on how our patients participate in their care. If we truly want to impact the health of our nation we need to change a few things:
- Failing to take medication or advice. Studies have shown that some 50 percent of patients don’t take prescribed medicines as advised or follow their doctors’ recommendations. Doctors take their responsibility for your health seriously, and prescribe and advise only after the deepest consideration of what is best for your health and wellbeing. Noncompliance, as we call it, is deeply frustrating for doctors, but it can be deadly for patients.
- Smoking. If you found a $100 bill on the street, wouldn’t you pick it up? That’s what it’s like to quit smoking. Smokers who quit enjoy an immediate financial premium that’s as easy as picking up a $100 bill. What else they gain is even more valuable than cash: possible years of extra life thanks to a drastically reduced risk of heart disease, lung cancer, esophageal cancer, emphysema, and other diseases. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death worldwide. While it’s understandable that some long-term smokers may have trouble quitting, why would anyone in this day and age start smoking?
- Overeating. Those who suffer from obesity deserve our compassion – but our goal is to lower the obesity rate in this country and get people healthy. Losing weight is a challenge – but it can be done. Most importantly we need to keep it from happening in the first place. Watch your weight. Spare yourself from heart disease, joint problems, diabetes, and other issues that endanger the lives of people who are obese.
- Sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is the closest thing to a sovereign remedy: a cure for all things. Forty minutes a day of raised pulse and respiration rate has been shown to improve depression, digestion, incidence of migraine, sexual dysfunction, and physical appearance. It lowers blood pressure, lowers your risk of diabetes, and reduces your risk of some cancers. Why – in the absence of serious disability – wouldn’t you practice a behavior that has such enormous upsides? Your doctor can’t figure it out.
There are things that drive doctors crazy. But most of them are beyond any single person’s control. Your habits and behaviors, however, are steerable by you. If you need some incentive beyond your own health to comply with treatment- stop smoking, eat healthy and exercise. Consider what a favor it would be to your doctor, but most importantly to yourself.