“How would you rate your health – circle a number from one to 10.”
People might think of themselves as healthy until they have to complete a health update. The self-assessment of health, where you have to rate your overall health with one measurement, can stop you in your tracks. A quick review of how your body is working and you may think:
Heart – my blood pressure is creeping up
Joints – knees and back hurt sometimes
Digestive – constipation, heartburn
Lungs – out of breath way sooner than I used to be
and on and on…
Everybody has aches and pains. Aging means changes and it’s pretty universal. So how do I determine my overall health? Are you a healthy person if you don’t have to take any prescription medications? Do happiness and well-being factor equally with physiological issues? The most important self-assessment for middle-agers is:
If I keep doing what I’m doing, what will my overall health be like in 10, 15 years?
We haven’t discovered a longevity gene yet and even if your ancestors were long-lived, it was in a completely different environment. Let’s assume things are going to go downhill physically. Lung function begins to decrease in your 30’s. Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) is a normal part of aging and people lose 3-5% of their muscle mass per decade. Predicting your own physical decline is depressing but if you look around at the older people in your life, it becomes imaginable. Changes likely need to be made if you want the life you imagined for your retirement years.
People who don’t go the doctor regularly for illnesses or chronic conditions, often don’t go at all for preventative screenings. I had to change my health plan last year which meant I could no longer email my doctor, call the advice nurse nor show up at the emergency room at Kaiser. Since I have only been to my doctor once or twice a year for the last 20 years, I ignored it for a few months. Then I started to worry. “What am I going to do if something happens and I need to see a doctor today?” It’s a steep learning curve that I’m slowly working through.
Preparing for the initial visit with the new doctor necessitated a self-assessment of my health. I typed up a one-page summary of my health with lab results that had more issues than I would prefer. After going over my summary (which she appreciated), my new doctor said, “It’s hell getting older, isn’t it?” Yes, but the alternative is worse.