Decision making is a life skill that isn’t necessarily taught in schools. It’s learned behavior that often comes from the phrase, “He’ll have to learn that for himself.” On some levels it’s an element of maturity, but on another level it’s a culmination of our life experiences. Too often, the ability to make good decisions in any given situation is a skill that we could all improve upon. It is the primary way in which to improve our quality of life.

One of the reasons that people often make bad choices is the sheer amount of things to consider. These factors range from our personal goals, the financial costs, the impact on our family and friends, and countless other factors. Just as in nature, humans are more drawn to the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, the path of least resistance is often the path to bad consequences.

Boiled down to its elements, there are two primary questions to consider when making a decision. Do you have the facts to make the decision? Do you know the consequences of the decision?

Having the facts to make a decision comes down to educating yourself about the situation. In today’s information age, we are often encased under an avalanche of data. Albert Einstein once said that he didn’t need to know every pointless piece of information; he only needed to know where to find it. And that is very true today. Learning how to effectively use the tools available to you, such as internet search engines and libraries, is vital.

Without having the facts, knowing the consequences of a decision is a bit like fortune telling. It’s kind of a shot in the dark. But, once you know the factors surrounding a decision, and understand your options, the consequences become much clearer.

Some of the biggest decisions of our lives are related to our health care. And many of these choices have impacts on both our quality of life and the length of our life. Consider smoking. A young person who makes the decision to start smoking often doesn’t know or can’t comprehend the consequences. That is a bad decision that begins to take time off of their life with every puff but is one that could be chalked up to “he’ll have to learn that for himself.” But as time goes by and that individual matures and learns that decisions have consequences, begins paying their own bills including insurance and health care costs, and gains access to more and more information, the matrix changes.

This “habit” now becomes a series of bad decisions, each cigarette smoked subtracting eleven minutes from their life. And not only is it reducing the length of life, it is drastically damaging the quality of life, even right that very moment. Simple things like shortness of breath plays a role in how we do the things that we enjoy doing. Heart Disease, Cancer, and many other conditions…all of these things are directly attributable to smoking and are health issues that can destroy your quality of life.

Making Wise Health Decisions

There are a lot of things in this world that are out of our control, including our DNA and our propensity for certain diseases. But, one thing that is totally within our control is how we make the most of the life we’ve been given. In your lifetime, you are going to have to make health decisions for yourself and your family. These decisions will influence your well-being as well as the quality and cost of your care. Knowing your options will have a huge impact in the consequences you face.

The best formula for making wise health care decisions is to use the best information available to you combined with your own personal core values. In other words, know the medical facts and know yourself. It’s very important to work with medical professionals whom you trust, so that you aren’t constantly second guessing your decisions, while simultaneously seeking the ever-growing data you need to continue to make the wisest decisions moving forward.

Steps for Making Wise Health Decisions

The following steps can help you make a smart health decision. Some questions can be answered in seconds and others may take weeks, but it’s important that you don’t delay your choices unnecessarily.

1.  What are the choices? Ask your doctor to clearly state the choices and the consequences as he or she sees them.

2.  Learn the facts. Find out what you need to know by using resources such as reliable websites like webmd.com (the source of these steps, for instance), the library, your doctor, and support groups. Make sure to focus on reliable information from a sound medical source, not just the results from a single source or from a company that benefits from you using their product.

3.  What feels right to you? Think about your own core values and the results you desire. Talk with family members who will be affected by your decision. Sort through the information and share your findings with your doctor.

4.  Try on a decision. Write down the consequences you expect from each possible decision. Reconfirm the probable side effects, pain, recovery time, cost, and long term prospects for each option. See which choices feel right on you.

5.  Create an Action Plan. Humans function better with a plan. Once you’ve made a decision, talk with your doctor and take the steps necessary to ensure the best possible outcome.

6.  Remember your goal. When you share in a decision, you share in the responsibility for the outcome. It is your job to fully implement every step in your action plan in which you control.

Preventative Care

We all want to enjoy our lives but we can only do so if we stay healthy. Most health problems can be avoided by a few simple steps done at home.

Dr. Anupreet Oberoi of Family Healthcare Center says that we should avoid the empty calories in soda and fruit juices. “Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat the fruit,” she says. She recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day, eating small well balanced meals, and not smoking. “Everyone needs 150 minutes of exercise per week and good uninterrupted sleep.” (Exercise can be as simple as walking to the point of elevating your heart rate or as complex as going to a personal trainer.) Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding unnecessary drugs whether illegal or legal.

Many other health problems can be avoided with simple immunizations. “Most of the sicknesses of early and middle life can be avoided completely with simple immunizations like flu shots. Young girls should get a vaccination against HPV, a virus which causes cervical cancer. Even some of the more common bacterial infections in older life such as bronchitis, sinusitis and pneumonia can be reduced with immunizations such as the influenza virus vaccination or the bacterial pneumococcal vaccination,” Dr. Oberoi says.

Dr. Sanjay Jaswani of Southside Internal Medicine says “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Basically, medical management becomes a lot more complicated and expensive when diseases are caught at a later stage rather than caught early via health screening and routine checkups. Studies have shown that folks do better overall if they practice good preventative medicine.”

Annual checkups are usually deductible-free elements of most health care plans including Medicare and Medicaid and for those without insurance, are still very cost effective. In fact, Dr. Jaswani says that the great majority of major illnesses would be preventable, manageable, or curable if diagnosed early. “If you catch diabetes at an early age you can manage your blood sugar better and can preventthings like diabetic retinopathy, which is patents losing their eye sight because the diabetes wasn’t caught early and wasn’t controlled early. Kidney disease can be secondary to diabetes, in which case is called diabetic nephropathy. High blood sugar can overwork the kidneys, causing them to stop working properly. In the worse case scenario, it can also lead to losing kidneys and going to dialysis simply because their diabetes wasn’t diagnosed early enough.”

If you catch issues early you are saving yourself the economic and life costs associated with major health issues. “It’s much more economical to institute preventative medicine than allow yourself to succumb to a disease and then have to be hospitalized.”

Tips for Employers

Health Care costs are one of the largest expenses for an employer and include the cost of insurance, lost work, and unproductivity.

Here are 6 Ways to have a healthier and happier team.

1.  Allow preventative care visits to be “on the clock”.

2.  Start a self-care program which includes access to books, videos, and internet links.

3.  Highlight employee success stories in the company newsletter and award the employees with a healthy lunch from a local restaurant.

4.  Put together a “doctor bag” of self-care medical supplies for the home for display. Encourage employees to submit a picture of their own “doctor bag” and give a prize for the most creative entry.

5.  Have a medical workshop day which includes information about such things as preventative care focusing on the top 3 healthy lifestyle topics, which are exercising, eating healthy, and quitting tobacco.

6.  Distribute a flyer on recommended immunizations, medical exams, tests, etc. Include a quiz in with paychecks and encourage employees to complete the quiz. Give a prize to the employees who answer all the questions correctly.

7.  Implement a weight loss or fitness contest and work and award significant prizes. Remember, people like cash.

8.  Coordinate a healthy recipe contest with a cook-off that the employees could enjoy together.

Good Sources for Health Care Information:

American Academy of Family Physicians

Agency for Health Care Policy Research    

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Institutes of Health  

US Department of Health and Human Services 

WebMD  

Medscape 

American Medical Association

We used many of these sites as sources for this healthcare issue. In addition, do an Internet Search for national organizations that represent a particular disease.

Danville Regional Medical Center has an extensive network of community-based primary care providers who offer preventative care services throughout the region. Dr. Oberoi can be found at Family Healthcare Center on Piney Forest Road and you can call her office at 434.797.2828. Dr. Jaswani can found at Southside Internal Medicine on Executive Drive and you can call his office at 434.797.2751.

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