As an adjective, it means “intended to prevent disease,” and as a noun it means “medicine or action used to prevent disease”.
In the context of health, the smartest thing anyone – especially middle aged people – can do is to use prophylactic practices. Simply put, just make sure to the extent possible that you don’t get into trouble in the first place.
Anyone can get hit by a truck by accident. There’s little we can do about it – that’s why they are called accidents.
But you and I can do a lot to prevent many lifestyle diseases – clogged arteries, stroke; obesity, type 2 diabetes, and diseases associated with smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. Even about 40% of all cancers are preventable. 167
In the case of diseases where prevention might be more difficult – primary hypertension for instance – early detection dramatically enhances the chances of keeping it tightly under control and preventing major harm to our bodies.
For middle-aged people, just two actions can thus make their health management simple and effective – act in advance for prevention, or identify early for cure or management.
Today, with easy access to information on many lifestyle diseases, prevention is really a question of discipline more than anything else. I agree that such discipline is easier hoped for than followed, but the choice is really yours – get that extra bit of discipline now or suffer for years with debilitating conditions.
Early diagnosis is fairly easy for ailments such as hypertension, many types of heart failure, clogged arteries, kidney failure and a few other critical ailments. With a wide battery of tests available today, diagnosing many of these early is really a question of spending a couple of days and getting these tests done. If you don’t know where to start, kick it off with a good general practitioner, and based on his preliminary findings and suggestions, get select tests done. It may also be a good idea to use the comprehensive health checkup packages offered by many hospitals worldwide today – results from these can sometimes throw up things that even a very good doctor might not have thought of.
If you are unfortunate and identified an ailment only quite late – like amma did for her restless legs syndrome – I think the smartest investment you can do is in the form of spending time to choose the right doctor or hospital to take help from. This was so obvious for amma in the context of her RLS, when we had the fortune to be referred to a good doctor whose medicine recommendation made the symptoms vanish within a few days – and it stayed that way for about five years!
Amma was once again extremely fortunate that we chose the right cardiac specialty hospital when she had her first aortic dissection. This selection was more of an accident and less from any research I had done on cardiology hospitals, but at least I was smart enough to stick to the same hospital for almost ten years and follow their recommendations to a very large extent. Even when she died, amma’s heart failure had not deteriorated much more from what it was almost ten years earlier, 168 and there was no deterioration at all in her aortic dissection in over five years.
For those having serious health problems, especially those in their 70s and 80, other than choosing the right doctor and hospital, the other recommendation I have is to invest in health monitoring solutions. – be it a BP monitor, blood oxygen meter, blood sugar monitor etc. With today’s technology advancement, most of these are simple to use – we even have no-prick sugar monitors today. And do make it a habit to use these. One of the reasons people stop using these solutions is because most times they get a normal reading, which makes them complacent. One way to ensure you use these regularly is to keep these in prominent locations so they hit your eyes frequently.
Finally, I request you to get a clear understanding of the key symptoms to watch out for. I did a fairly good job of this for amma’s heart failure and her aortic dissection – partly from what the doctors had told me at the hospital and partly from my own research. While in amma’s case it prevented us from rushing her to the hospital dozens of times in the past five years and avoiding significant inconvenience to her, in many other cases a precise understanding of symptoms can save lives through early hospitalization and treatment. While interacting with doctors, lay a special emphasis on getting a list of all the key symptoms to look out for, and under what conditions you should get yourself or the patient to the hospital.
Prevention. Early detection. Choosing the right hospital or doctor. Investing in health monitoring solutions. Understanding the critical symptoms to look out for.
While there’s a ton of literature and information available on each of my suggestions, how many actually follow them? Likely a lot fewer than the desired number. I’m hoping that my thoughts based on practical experiences will make more people follow these – if a person with my poor temperament and forgetfulness could do many of these, it cannot be that difficult for normal people.
I did a fair number of these, but more by trial and error, in a fairly unorganized manner, during emergencies, and sometimes owing to luck. I think our and our family’s health deserve a bit more planning and discipline.
If you set a deadline of two months during which you use the weekends for implementing the relevant suggestions one by one, you will hardly feel the pinch from the time required to do these.
I can assure you that the returns from such a small investment in time will be exceptionally high – and valuable.
Fig: 51: Smart health management flowchart, based on my experience
168. What helped was the right combination of medications amma was taking for her heart failure. While some of her heart health parameters had remained the same, it is possible that her left ventricular hypertrophy had increased a bit during this time mainly owing to age.
Read Amma the fun way!
Do you know that you can read specific chapters alone of Amma depending on who you are and what interests you? So, we have selected chapters that could be of interest to young, middle-aged and old men & women, to medical and white collar professionals, to those wishing to know specifically about heart problems, blood pressure or leg ailments, medical management of seniors & elders, and even those interested in reading some fun and humour.
We even have a treasure hunt designed for you to ferret out 100+ interesting facts.