After a year, one of my favorite rowing leaders asked her participants to examine their bodies at the mirrors that lined the area. She would then tell us there were two very important things we must understand about our own bodies. The first was that a body wasn’t like a car or other consumer goods. What she meant was that we can not trade it in or purchase a new one when it breaks down. It’s the only one we’re ever likely to have.
The second is that we have no right to expect or assume that somebody else will take responsibility for it if and when it did break down. What she meant is that we must take on that responsibility ourselves. Yes, medical professionals can counsel, patch and prescribe, but the responsibility is actually ours and not one which can be handed off. How right she was. It’s been years since I have been to one of her classes – I have not stopped exercising, she retired – yet for this day I often think about her words. It’s difficult to argue against a fitness regimen, a healthy diet, and decent lifestyle habits as the best means to a healthy body.
Undoubtedly there is. There are most likely a lot of different things you can and should do, however, I want to share one extra thing I do, and what I believe to have significant value. I keep meticulous records of items related to my health. I keep the information current and that I keep it officially. I use a computer program to handle the data since there’s quite a bit of it although I’m in good health. You may wonder what type of information I maintain, what I do with it, why I do this, and how I do it. Well, allow me to try to explain. What Can I Keep Track Of? I collect five categories of information and they are
1. Medicine and supplemental regimens, prescribed or not
2. Past, current, emerging and possible medical conditions
3. surgeries, exams, tests, and other medical procedures
4. Previous and scheduled visits with health professionals, and
5. important health measures The first 4 classes are quite static in character – that is, the information doesn’t change once captured and doesn’t need much time or effort keeping it current.
1. In the first class, I keep tabs on the frequent name of the medication, its name, the prescribing doctor, the dose and the date I began or stopped carrying it.
2. In the second group, I record childhood ailments, phobias, allergies, accidents and possible hereditary ailments incurred by my loved ones, like cancers, heart and other ailments.
3. I keep a record of all the tests I’ve undergone – ultrasounds, colonoscopies, allergic, etc. – the dates, referring physicians and results if available.
4. And of course a listing of my visits with the physicians and associated professionals I see – when I saw, when I next trip, what I wish to discuss so I remember, questions I have, what was discussed, the results, etc. The last category can be more dynamic in character – that is, the information may change quite often, depending on what I am keeping track of. I refer to this kind of information as time-series information since there are numerous records of the identical measure taken at various points in time – daily, monthly, yearly or whenever. This information is repetitious so that I use it to create charts and graphs that permit me to find trends and correlations to other information.
5. In this category, there’s always a date, then the particular measure taken, and at times a goal and an upper and lower limit. Examples include the results of blood work (HDL and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides), heartbeat, blood pressure, PSA for men, blood sugar levels, body mass index, and some other significant health measures. An individual may also track physical activities like miles run or pedaled, laps swum, hours of exercise, etc – whatever you can quantify.
If one endured irritable bowel syndrome, as an instance, monitoring the number and seriousness of daily bowel movements and drug doses required for the illness may help to assess the effect of various therapies. What Can I Do With This Information And Why Do I Keep Track Of It All? First of all, I use the time-series information to help me manage my health. I feel that one can better handle something if one can quantify it. For many years, I asked my family doctor for a copy of my blood test results for HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and my PSA, amongst others. I make a note of my blood pressure, height and weight when they’re taken.
So right off the bat, I’ve 6 steps that I track. I also monitor the hours of cardiac intensive exercise that I participate in every week and frequently record my weight. Where I live, medical institutions publish recommended targets and limits for health measures based on gender, age and so forth. I enter this information so I can compare my own steps to what’s normal or expected. I also search for trends to determine which direction my steps are going in if any.
I do two things with the results: I find myself changing my diet, exercise routine or anything when I see a trend that I don’t like. Quite frequently, this is sufficient to bring the measure back to where I think it ought to be. I also bring the graphs when seeing my doctors so we can talk about the implications of a particular step or a trend in a step since there might be a need for drug or other alternatives to help me bring the step back into line.