A Healthier You
With general commencement over and a transition in the ranks of our residents coming up at the end of this month, I know many of you have already embarked on a summer vacation. And that’s a good thing. It’s important to get away and recharge your batteries from time to time.
We all have a lot going on in our lives – work, personal and family relationships, community activities, education and professional development, faith activities – plus all the maintenance tasks of daily life that have to be done. (With four children in the Woodward household, I could tell you some laundry horror stories.)
With so much going on, it’s impossible to make everything a priority.
So I want to encourage you to consider one priority to be the foundation that all others rest upon: A healthy you.
The fact is, you can’t really be the best version of yourself – the best employee, caregiver, spouse, parent, supervisor, friend or citizen - if you are fatigued, ill, depressed, stressed out or hung over.
There’s an ancient saying in medicine, “Physician, heal thyself.” As originally written, it meant that people should attend to their own shortcomings before pointing out the defects of others.
A modern-day version of that saying might be: “Take control of your own health.”
A recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and reported in an eCV interview with our own Dr. Tom Skelton, professor of medicine, caught my attention. An analysis of two long-term population health studies indicates that adopting just five healthy habits can add not only years to your life – an average 10 for both men and women – but life to your years.
- A healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Limiting consumption of alcohol
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a normal body weight
One thing I found interesting about these habits is, for the most part, they all hang together and reinforce one another. Limiting alcohol consumption, for example, not only reduces caloric intake, it supports your motivation and energy to get out and hit the walking trail or the gym. Regular exercise increases your metabolism so your body burns more calories even while resting.
As health care providers, we know so much of the chronic diseases and disabilities we see – easily more than half – could have been avoided or at least ameliorated by factors under our patients’ own control. Obesity, in particular, related to poor diet and inactivity is implicated in heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, orthopaedic issues – just about every scourge that afflicts Mississippians. (It is also true that people living in poverty have less access to healthy food choices or secure venues in which to exercise.)
One of my priorities is to build a healthier UMMC workforce, not only because I care about our employees’ personal health status, but also so we can “walk the walk” for those we care about, including our patients. We have many resources we can draw upon, including a new Office of Wellbeing with an established and growing Everyday Wellness program, as well as resources embedded in many of our offices and departments.
For example, just the other day, Dr. Scott Rodgers, professor and chair of psychiatry, gave a lunchtime presentation offering tips and strategies for not just surviving the workday, but having the mindset to thrive by loving what you do and believing that each experience makes you better.
I like that, and I like the five habits listed above. On behalf of our colleagues in dermatology, I would add a sixth – protect your skin and wear sunscreen. Adopting all of these, making them true habits and part of our daily walk, will lead us to a healthier work environment and lead all of us to A Healthier Mississippi.