Do you have termite protection for your house? I remember the first conversation I had about termite prevention in my newly purchased home. I was dismissive of the idea of paying someone hundreds of dollars every year to prevent the possible risk of termite damage. It was at a time when I was already peeved about the unexpected costs that go along with owning a home. I had always been a renter—never had to purchase things like garden tools, lawnmowers and weed eaters. The cost quickly added up. Fast forward 3 years when we were getting ready to purchase our new (old) home in the city, the inspection came back with the news that there was termite damage to the structure of the house. It was estimated to cost $10,000 to repair the damage. Fortunately, the seller picked up the tab, but you can believe that every year after I have gladly payed the termite company to provide routine preventive treatments. Why? Because now I am armed with the knowledge that these tiny little termites can do significant amounts of damage over time. Not to mention, I regularly see them around in my yard. The thing about termites is that often you don’t see them and you certainly don’t see the silent damage that they are doing. Little by little, and slowly over time, they can eat away underneath the surface. It’s not uncommon for the façade of the structure to look completely normal, meanwhile the core of the foundation is rotted.
This is a health blog so where am I going with this? What if I told you that the health habits you have today are paving the road for the health (or disease) you will have in the future. Perhaps right now you’re putting off making changes because you seem healthy. You might even have a clean bill of health from the doctor because he or she said your labs look fine, but the problem is that chronic diseases often develop over years and decades. The silent damage is low-grade chronic inflammation that over time develops into a debilitating chronic illness. At the golden time of retirement—when you are supposed to be having the time of your life—you’re instead spending your time and money on healthcare, or as I sometimes refer to as sick care.
Hypertension is known as the silent killer. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure and only about half of them know it and have it under control. The World Health Organization lists high blood pressure as the most important preventable cause of heart disease and stroke worldwide. I spend a lot of time listening to and coaching clients who want to achieve a higher level of health. For every client I DO get to talk with, there are a hundred others that I DON’T get to talk with. There’s a general vibe in our culture where we assume a person’s health is fine until there is some obvious sign. It’s like not changing the oil in your car for a 100,000 miles and assuming it’s fine because the check engine light hasn’t come on. Meanwhile, there’s been a strange knocking sound coming from under the hood for a few months now.
So poor health choices are like termites. It’s hard to convince yourself to invest in yourself because you seem “fine.” In reality, the termites—the metabolic stress, inflammation and toxins are always there, but they are invisible. If it’s invisible, then what are the signs that health troubles are on the way?
- Weight gain/obesity
- Sleep apnea
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Insulin resistance (which buy the way doctor’s don’t routinely test this)
- Being told you need medications to treat any of the above
Other signs are less obvious and more nuanced. I encourage my clients to think of a time when they were at their healthiest “sweet spot.” What was that like? How did you feel and what were you doing? How far have you strayed from that person? I’m not going to sugar coat it: Making and developing new health habits is HARD. It’s mostly hard because no one can tell you exactly how to do it and there’s a lot of trial and error. But I can say from personal experience that the payoff is worth the effort. I would encourage you to tune in and listen to your body. It’s always talking, usually letting you know when things are off balance. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Do something to change the trajectory now!