Sorry, but it’s not me… it’s you. Despite evidence to the contrary, most Americans believe they are managing their own health well, while those around them clearly are not. Only 17 percent of us recognize that our own health is going in the wrong direction and we’re pointing fingers.
A study commissioned by GE Healthcare, The Cleveland Clinic, and Ochsner Health System, and reported in HealthDay News, asked more than 2,000 Americans and their doctors to rate the country’s health. Apparently, the way we see ourselves, and the way our doctors see us, are at different ends of the spectrum.
We think we our eating habits are healthy; our doctors do not. We believe we get enough exercise; the doctors say it ain’t so. Many of us don’t know or understand our blood pressure or cholesterol numbers, even though we recognize that they are important to overall good health. And we see a lot of folks who are heavier and appear to be more out-of-shape than we are, thus giving the impression that we are healthier. (You can read the specifics of the survey HERE.)
You feel fine, so you must be healthy, right? Wrong. Many killers are silent before they strike — heart attack, stroke, and diabetes are a few that often give little or no clue of what is to come. Lifestyle choices, including diet and exercise, can help prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
There is much we can do to invest in our own health and wellbeing, so why don’t we? It is human nature to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, easier to make excuses for our own shortcomings, even while casting a critical eye on everyone else. We sneak in that extra sugary snack and conveniently dismiss it as just a little treat. Ten minutes of exercise seems like 30 when you’re the one doing the exercising. You smoke, but you’re tapering off.
We are not taking responsibility for those things within our control, and whether we admit it or not, we’re setting a ghastly example for the next generation, a generation expected to have a shorter life expectancy than our own.
Given the debate on health care reform, I found this item in the survey of particular interest:
“Ninety-five percent agreed that regular checkups with their physicians were important, even though 70 percent said they had taken actions to avoid their doctors, such as hoping their health problems would go away on their own or asking a friend for medical advice instead.”
The report gives no explanation for the respondents’ answers and I’m not sure that this particular point speaks to the issue of Americans purposely neglecting their health, but rather to the problem of soaring health care costs and lack of adequate medical insurance. Hoping health problems take care of themselves, turning to friends for advice and to internet medical sites is what you do when you can’t afford medical care.
In any case, it’s time to stop the finger pointing. Maybe it’s not just you… maybe it’s me, too.