Are You Approaching the Waterfall?

There was a village in the middle of the jungle. The village was along a river near the bottom of a waterfall. For the most part the people of this village were isolated. However, one day a tourist on a canoe washed over the waterfall and was injured. The villagers rescued this person, made a makeshift cot, and transported them to a nearby hut. In this hut, they allowed the person to rest until they were well enough to continue on their way. A few days after this person left, two more people washed over the falls. This time they were better prepared, but had to build another cot and make more room in one of the huts. These two people were nursed back to health and went on their way.

Over the next several weeks and months, more and more people washed down over the falls. The villagers were great. Several villagers studied how to best mend peoples’ wounds and apply slings to hold injured arms and legs. They built many cots so they could easily transport the injured to a nearby “hospital” hut that was constructed. After many months of this, they were quite efficient at taking care of people and pretty soon built a second hospital to take care of the increased number of people who were washing over the falls.

Then one day a villager said, “maybe we should go to the top of falls and warn people before they go over”.

I’m sure as you were reading through this story, you were thinking to yourself the same thing. Why not go to the top of the falls? Well, this very same thing is happening in America’s health care system. We know people are heading towards the falls, yet we choose to sit there and wait at the bottom of the falls. Worse yet, many people know they are headed towards the falls, but choose to do nothing about it.

This story illustrates the concept of preventative health care. It’s identifying health risks and teaching people to avoid unhealthy behaviors to reduce the risk of developing various diseases.

So, what are some signs that you may be heading towards the falls? Here are a few simple tests or questions you can do right now to determine how close you are to going over the falls towards poor health.

1. Circumference of your waist – Take out a flexible tape measure and wrap it around your waist at the level of your belly button. Females should measure less than 32 inches and males should measure less than 35 inches. If your measurement is more than this, it’s a sign that you should make some changes in your lifestyle as you are at a higher risk of a variety of health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

2. How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you consume each day? Your body requires about 6 to 8 servings every single day in order to function at it’s best. Otherwise, you run the risk of nutrient deficiency. You might feel alright on less, but that’s only because your body will compensate for many years before you begin to feel the ill effects. Regardless of all other health habits, research shows that consuming at least 6 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is protective against a variety of health issues.

3. This is more of a physical or posture evaluation vs. general health, but very important nonetheless. Poor posture can lead to a variety of issues such as headaches, neck and back pain, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, TMJ syndrome, etc., as well as increased risk for injury of your joints and spine. You can have someone take a photo of you from the side and back, or find a partner and evaluate each other. From the back, check to see if the ears, shoulders, and hips are at the same level. From the side, check to see if the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears are along the same vertical line. If not, it’s a sign you need to work on correcting problems before they become worse. See the photo below for a few examples of poor vs. normal posture.

Don’t wait to do something about your health until you have health issues or symptoms. By then it’s much more difficult to take care of the underlying issues. As the old adage goes, “It is easier to maintain your health than it is to restore it once it’s gone.”

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