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Best health plan? Work to stay healthy

— The health care debate in this country over the past few years has forced us all to consider some tough questions. What is health care going to look like in this country 10 years from now? Will I still have access to my doctor that I know and trust? Will I have insurance or means to cover the ever-rising costs of care? What will happen to me if I get a serious illness?

While none of us really knows what’s going to happen there is one thing that seems crystal clear to me. Simply put, the best way to plan for the future is ... stay healthy!

OK, OK ... I know it’s not that simple. Still, are you doing everything you can right now to minimize your risk of preventable disease?

The health care delivery system in this country tends to be disease focused. Wait until you get sick and then go see the doctor and hope there is some medicine, surgery or protocol that will fix you up and send you on your way — without you having to bother changing your behavior!

There is also a perception that if you are not sick then you are healthy. Truth is, health is not simply the absence of disease! At the core, this is what preventive medicine is really all about! Identifying and minimizing risk factors for disease before we begin to see a problem!

I would encourage everyone to take it upon themselves to improve their health and do every thing they can to minimize risk of disease. This assumes that we will become primarily responsible for our own health and well-being. It is an “inconvenient truth” that many of the most common diseases we suffer from in this country are wholly, or at least in part, preventable.

Does this mean that we can somehow control our fate and prevent all disease? Of course not. There are many factors beyond our control. More to the point, no matter what we do we all have a finite life span! However, doesn’t it make sense to do as much as we can to minimize disease and disability so we can have as many healthy and vital years as possible?

How to get started? I think the best way to get started is to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with your doctor! Your doctor can help you identify any obvious risk factors for chronic disease and make some initial suggestions about how to minimize or eliminate those risk factors. Far too many of us wait until we get sick before seeing our physician.

Also, I suggest becoming a more informed consumer of your health care. When you have blood work or tests, ask your doctor to explain what they are for and what they mean! If you have a newly diagnosed illness or condition, take the time to read and learn about it! There are countless resources online and in print that can explain things in terms that make sense to you!

Your health journey doesn’t stop with your doctor’s visit ... it starts there! A healthy lifestyle is just that — a lifestyle! Once you know your risk factors, what can you do to minimize them? Can some of your risk factors be minimized or even eliminated by exercise and weight loss? Can you eliminate unhealthy habits that you know are jeopardizing your health? Can specific healthy diet changes reduce your risk for disease?

Usually the answer is yes! It is now up to you to put those changes in place! You are much more in control of your health than you think! The basic formula for health and healthy aging is really pretty simple when you think of it — eat the right foods, exercise your body and mind regularly, minimize stress, get enough sleep and minimize your risk factors for disease. If it sounds simple, it’s because it is! Simple ... but not necessarily easy.

Why wait? I urge you today to commit to being a healthier you! You don’t have to make a drastic change right away. You may start by deciding to walk for a half an hour a day. You may decide to read a book about healthy eating or cooking. You could eliminate one unhealthy item from your diet. You might join a fitness group and enjoy the friendship and encouragement of others with similar goals. The options are almost limitless!

There is no better day than today to get started!

Dr. Phillip Allen is a board certified otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon who has practiced in Albany since 2002. As a natural outgrowth to his expanding interest in nutrition, fitness and healthy aging, Dr. Allen opened RestoreFit Clinic for men in 2008.