Last week, I started to feel really, really bad. It wasn't just the cold (although that didn't help one bit) – it was a bone-deep exhaustion, coupled with steadily increasing back and throat pain. I was irritable and had a lot of trouble concentrating. Every time I stood up, I felt dizzy.
At first I thought it was just the cold working its wicked wiles on me. Then I started thinking, This is no ordinary cold! and thought of all kinds of wonderfully rare and horrible diseases that could be causing all this grief.
I was clearing my schedule for an all-day visit to the doctor (and bracing myself for a good $800 in lab work and office visit expenses) (not to mention the swine flu quarantine) when my brain suddenly decided to remind me that I suffer from chronic anemia.
Normally it's very mild, and all I really need to do is eat a well-balanced diet with a fair number of things like oatmeal, broccoli, chard, spinach, etc. (ummm…rut-roh…)
As I sheepishly broke out my iron supplements (which, by the way, swept 99% of my malaise out of my life within two hours), I found myself thinking about how often we spend months and years setting ourselves up for high medical expenses, and then are stunned when they come home to roost.
We don't watch or diet or exercise, and then we're stunned and upset when we're hit with the high cost of diabetes, hypertension and heart treatments. We smoke and are shocked to find that lung cancer is kinda costly. We refuse to exercise and then want a Magic Pill to cure our stiff, aching joints – what? You want $300 a month for that, are ya crazy?!?!
There are lots of things we can't control when it comes to our healthcare. We can't control our own genetics, or some parts of our environment. Accidents will happen, and it's hard to be thinking about controlling costs when you've just been battered by a car crash.
But where there are things that are in our control, we're fools not to seize hold of them.
It can be hard, though, because the danger isn't immediate. You don't eat a single McMega burger and drop dead of heart failure, any more than the first extra five pounds immediately causes diabetes. It's a slow process, getting to expensive self-imposed conditions…and it's easy to forget they ever were preventable once they arrive.
It's an invisible gift to give your older self, a healthier lifestyle now. It's easy to discount the benefits until the consequences are actually upon you; and triply hard, if not impossible, to undo the damage done one triple sundae at a time over the course of years and years.
This week, I'm going to take a hard look at my (rather sloppy) lifestyle choices. Obviously, I need to make sure I take my stupid iron supplements…but my diet has also gotten a bit on the haphazard side lately, and my "exercising" has been limited to some morning stretches and the occasional midday pause to repeat them.
I don't want to be setting myself up for more arthritis pain later; I don't want to be dragging around feeling miserable because I can't remember to take a stupid iron pill, or find myself with hypertension because I couldn't be bothered to watch my sodium intake and get some daily exercise.
I'd feel like a pretty big fool, if some simple changes now could have prevented all that misery in five, ten years.
Life is busy. It always feels like too much trouble to watch my weight, or my diet, or my exercise levels. I've got way too much to do, and when I'm done doing it all I'm tired and I don't wanna worry about portion sizes and healthy balances among food groups. Wah.
But it may well be that I'm avoiding tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs down the road, simply by taking command of my health now, in whatever ways I can; by working toward maintaining a healthy weight, keeping my body nutritionally balanced and physically agile, and my mind focused on my inherent worth – I deserve to be healthy, and happy, and to live long and prosper.
We all do…and we all need to do what we can to do so.