November is the month we have to sign up for our health insurance benefits at work. My employer has made some changes to our benefits package which will change the way I manage my health. Even with these changes, I am so grateful to have a job that offers health and dental insurance. I know that many people do not have what I do. One of the new additions to our insurance is something called a Health Savings Account or HSA. An HSA allows you to save an elected amount of money to use to pay for some of your health related expenses. Having this account really makes me think about some of the choices I make regarding my health. It also has me thinking more about the entire healthcare system and the mindset of most of the consumers of that system.
For most of my life, I’ve been interested in healthcare. I wanted to be a nurse when I was younger. As a social worker working in the healthcare industry, I see many people dealing with devastating illnesses. I see them taking pills for multiple conditions. I see what years of neglect have done to their bodies. I also see that people have become distanced from themselves, as if they have forgotten that they are responsible for many of their conditions. They look to their physician to make them better and become disillusioned when it doesn’t happen. I wonder if we have developed a mindset of do what we want now, and if a problem develops, we’ll just take a pill to make it better. That is how I thought about my health for a long time but I recently decided to make a change after a wake up call.
My doctor had been telling me that my blood pressure was too high over the past couple of years. I had put on a lot of weight and knew that my blood pressure would go down if I lost some of the weight. I knew this because I’d been down this road before. I kept telling her that I didn’t want to take blood pressure medication. I felt I was too young for that. I would just lose the weight. Two years went by and I went to see my doc for a checkup and she took my blood pressure. It was high. I told her that I just needed to lose 20 pounds and it would go back down. She then said something to me that changed my life. She said, “You’ve been saying that to me for 2 years.” It was like a rock hit me in the head. I decided that day that I was not taking responsibility for my health. I was choosing to continue with my bad eating habits and with that choice, I was choosing all the repercussions that went along with it. I could always just take a pill to lower my blood pressure, but I knew that was a slippery slope. It was time to make a different choice.
I’ve since lost the extra weight and my blood pressure and blood sugar are back in the normal ranges. I was proud when I went back to my doctor when she saw what I had accomplished. I feel more empowered to be the one in charge of my health. I want to make choices that support my health and use my healthcare benefit to keep me healthy, not to put bandages on things that are happening because of my unhealthy choices. Each day, I see younger and younger people coming to stay in the nursing home for rehabilitation or long term care. I feel disturbed when I see people there who were born the same year as me. While not everyone has control over every aspect of their health, many suffer from issues complicated by preventable diseases related to weight. I am grateful that medicine has drugs available to treat diseases that would’ve killed many in the past, however, I feel that we should stop using these drugs as crutches for our unhealthy choices.
What choices have you been making regarding your health? Do your choices empower you or disempower you? What can you change to help put you back on track? I know I am going to consider how my choices will affect my health from now on. I want to utilize my health benefits to keep me healthy, not to undo damage that I am causing myself. This mindset will become increasingly important as our health systems and insurances change. I will leave you with a quote from Buddha.
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.”
Yours in transformation,