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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Didn't he see the warning signs?



I am often asked about how people die. Not specifically how their actual death occurred, but what lead up to it. What the warning signs were. And why they were missed.

Most people ask me this because they want to make sure that they do not have the same issues.

For example, if a young patient has melanoma, people will ask me, did they sit in the sun a lot, did they have a lot of moles, did they have a family history, did they wear sunscreen?

Or a stroke victim. Did they have high blood pressure, was there a congenital anomaly, did they suffer from headaches?

Most of us do this. It is how we justify death. When someone who ate and drank everything they wanted to dies, we often shake our heads and think, well, they just didn't take good care of themselves. That won't happen to me.

But I see a lot of people who die and they seemingly did everything right. Exercised, went to the MD yearly for a check-up, ate healthy food, had parents who lived to be 90, put on sunscreen, kept their weight normal.

But they developed cancer or heart disease and they died. Usually way too young. And it is these types of deaths that give us a chill. Especially as we enter middle age.

So, what can we do? Are there warning signs that they missed?

My answer to that would be a yes. They did. And we all do as well.

So, what warning signs can we look for. What can we do to protect ourselves?

We can start by paying attention to the warning signals in our car and remember to always wear a seatbelt. Many healthy people die this way, in stupid accidents. We don't often think about it, but most motor vehicle deaths are totally preventable. We drive after a couple glasses of wine. We don't always pay attention and become distracted by cellphones and kids. We text. We don't always wear a seatbelt. And we place ourselves in peril. Sometimes daily.

Stop it. Be more aware of the risks here.

We also need to understand that our body talks to us. It is quite wise. It tells us when we need to slow down, take a rest, get more sleep. But we hardly ever really listen to it until we are ill. We just stop at Starbucks for another jolt of caffeine to get us through the day. But we need to rest. We need to sleep. These are preventative measures we should all be taking. But don't.

And pain. We often dismiss it. But it tells a story as well. Don't ignore it.

There are other things that happen to our bodies as we age and they are silent. High blood pressure being one of them. We need to have it checked and keep it around or below 120/80. High blood pressure leads to a myriad of problems if left unchecked.

And our weight. I am not saying we all need to be thin. On the contrary, there are many studies that suggest a little bit of fat can be protective. But we still have to keep it in check. We need to stay away from excess sodium and sugar. We need to walk more. Drink more water.

Many cancers are not related to any one cause. We would like to think they are, but they are seemingly random. And that is simply the truth.

Our bodies have to be equipped to fight aberrant cells. The best way to do that is to listen to our body and take good care of it. From the inside out.

That means we should take a vitamin pill, take an aspirin every day to alleviate inflammation in our body (which is deadly), not feed it too much junk and processed foods, not overwhelm it with too many chemicals and pharmaceuticals. We need to balance things better. Mom was right; everything in moderation.

You have to watch out for the warning signs yourself. Your MD may say that things look great, but only you know yourself. Only you can really judge.

I don't know everything for sure, but I do know one thing; we will all die. I see it all of the time. But we can prevent an early, premature, needless death if we take certain precautions. We can.

So, start to tune into your own warning system. It may in fact save your life.


First we make our habits, then our habits make us.
~~~Charles C. Noble


Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.
~~~Alfred A. Montapert


The name of the game is taking care of yourself, because you're going to
live long enough to wish you had.
~~~Grace Mirabella

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