- - Monday, December 8, 2014

“He sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present.” — The Dalai Lama

This is one of my favorite quotes. For more than a decade, I would work 65-90 hours a week taking care of patients, conducting scientific research, and teaching medical students and doctors in training. I loved it.

But it took a toll on my health and my relationships that I now see with 20/20 vision … in hindsight. As a physician, I knew I could not preach something that I was not practicing. And I knew that I needed to do something to clear up my vision so I could see 20/20 … but with foresight.

After having my daughter, I stepped down from my faculty teaching and research position at the University of Pennsylvania to be able to spend time raising her and achieve “work-life balance.” However, my passion — sharing medical truths for greater understanding, healthy and balanced living, as well as wise preventive health measures — has not changed. While I continue to directly care for patients in the operating room, I also care for them outside of the hospital, but with my pen — or more accurately, the computer.

The goal of my columns is to help readers navigate all the health information that is thrown at us. We are empowered when we have the knowledge to identify and make healthy choices. It puts us in the driver’s seat and, too, allows us to support our families, loved ones and community in making healthy choices. I have a holistic view of our health, meaning that it is not just physical, but also mental, emotional and spiritual. They are intimately interrelated and intertwined, meaning if one aspect is ill, it will affect the others. Somewhat like dominoes.
So, what can we do to live a balanced and healthy life? It begins with taking care of ourselves. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, flight attendants instruct passengers to place the oxygen mask on themselves before they try to help their children or other passengers. The reason being: if someone passes out while administering help, neither the person helping nor receiving help will benefit. Few can argue with this logic.

A dear friend told me that: “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.” Although some may see it as containing a pessimistic tone, I believe it actually carries an optimistic message. After all, who else better to make sure we stay in our best health than ourselves? We have hospitals, physicians and other medical professionals that are imperative to keeping us healthy and treating us when we are ill. But we still have the responsibility to make healthy choices.

We are also entering into a new era of health care, and it is clear that prevention is the best, easiest and cheapest medicine we could ever take. Recently, I had a young man with kidney failure come to the operating room to have a dialysis catheter placed. This father of three young kids had uncontrolled high blood pressures that became too much for his kidneys to handle. He stated: “I just never thought my pressures were a big deal. I guess I was wrong.” Unfortunately, he was. His blood pressure had also caused two heart attacks and a stroke. He brought tears to my eyes because this could have been prevented.

I look forward to sharing with you truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.

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