personal responsibility, health, self care

Who Is Your Primary Physician?

Who Is Your Primary Physician?

© 2006 Wellness Clubs of

During my years of medical school and residency training I was frequently admonished, “He who treats himself has a fool for a physician!” Though perhaps unintended, the message clearly was, “Don’t try to take care of yourself. When it comes to your health you need to turn over the responsibility to someone else.”

Good advice? Hardly. A more accurate expression would be, “He who fails to take care of himself has a fool for a patient!” Abdicating personal responsibility is unwise in social and business affairs. Abdicating personal responsibility in regard to one’s health is a recipe for disaster.

Rosalie and I received word recently that an individual we have known for many years had undergone a leg amputation, just below her knee. The tragedy is magnified by the fact that the loss could have been prevented had she been willing to take simple measures to support her body’s healing mechanisms when signs and symptoms of disease began to appear.

Our friend wouldn’t think of managing her own health care. When she learned that she had developed diabetes many years ago she began taking the medication her doctor prescribed, but made no discernable changes in her lifestyle. She made some superficial dietary changes, but did not make a commitment to regular physical activity and laughed when nutritional supplements were recommended.

Following her heart attack and bypass surgery she was advised that supplementation with the proper nutrients could support circulation in other parts of her body, but because her doctor had not recommended them she refused to give the idea serious consideration. Besides, supplements were not covered by her health insurance policy.

When her toes became gangrenous she consumed large quantities of antibiotics both before and after having them amputated. The thought of providing an external negative magnetic field to inhibit the growth of bacteria, increase oxygen levels in the tissues and attract the body’s healing elements to the area was simply too bizarre to consider.

As she begins the process of learning to walk again using a prosthetic leg she remains steadfast in her belief that if she continues to take her prescribed medications and follows her doctor’s advice, all will be made well.

In contrast, her aunt, also a diabetic, has vigorously and enthusiastically sought ways to continually improve her health. She listens to her physician’s advice, but recognizes it for what it is – another person’s opinion as to how to proceed.

She reads continually about measures she can take to improve her health. She eats a diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats, and free of refined sugars and flours. She walks daily, regardless of the weather conditions. She provides her body with a broad range of supplemental nutrients, and she investigates the risks as well as the benefits of drugs her doctor prescribes and makes an informed decision as to those that will support her long-term health and the medications that are likely to adversely impact her well-being over time. She is, in a very real sense, her own primary physician.

Although she is a dozen years older than her niece she is in excellent health. She is active, vital, and has never been hospitalized. Her only surgical procedures have been for the removal of cataracts in recent years. She enjoys interacting with her children and great-grandchildren and is looking forward to many more years unblemished by the ravages of disease.

The idea of becoming one’s own primary physician is not as radical as it may initially seem. A wise motorist assumes the responsibility for seeing that the vehicle’s fluid levels are properly maintained, that the oil is changed at regular intervals and that the proper grade of fuel is supplied to the engine on a regular basis.

A wise homeowner assumes the responsibility for seeing that the roof remains in good repair, that the light bulbs are replaced when they burn out and that the facility is cleaned at regular intervals.

One of the sad facts of life in the United States today is that many people take better care of their houses and cars than their own bodies. If you want to be well you must assume personal responsibility for your health. You must become your own primary care physician. Call in consultants when challenges occur, but beware of falling into the trap of believing that having asked for a second opinion you must, of necessity, follow your consultant’s advice. Embrace only the words that withstand careful scrutiny; release those that upon review hold little promise. Make a commitment to take care of yourself. After all, if your body wears out prematurely, where are you going to live?

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