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Healthy Aging: A Paradigm Shift to Personal Responsibility

The world today is dedicated to technology, advancing research and the access to unlimited information on all manner of subjects. Each of us relies on technology not only for our questions about life but also for receiving the answers. And oh, by the way, we want our answers NOW! The speed with which we live our lives is increasing everyday and sometimes it can be very frustrating to realize that we can’t “have it all – and do it all”.

In my opinion, what has been lost in the race to become technologically advanced, is the notion of healing our illnesses and addressing underlying CAUSES so that we may each partner with ourselves as positive and loving participants in our own care. The field of healthcare is also undergoing a transformation in the 21st century – a paradigm shift if you will – toward ever more increasing complexity and technological innovation. For the individual this has many positive aspects, but in many ways it is also becoming increasingly difficult to navigate – and understand not only “what it is – but how to use it”.

When I was a child, we saw our doctor for our shots and annual checkups for school. There were relatively no other aspects of this relationship than seeking help if we got sick or injured. The doctor was very often a family friend and most of the time was able to spend quality time with the patient on each visit.

Today we rely on the healthcare system to serve a wide variety of very complex health needs. The doctor is very often busy and can spend relatively little time discussing our issues in depth because the system is designed to maximise results, revenue, and optimise time. Specialties are now common for everything from brain, heart and lungs to bones, hormones and many others that require a referral from another physician and these visits typically involve further testing at each stop along the way (more complexity). The patient is “processed” and drugs are almost always involved in any recommendation or treatment.

The juggling of information and treatments is a significant part of any participation in the healthcare system of the 21st century. This complexity – and cost – is a major part of the challenge we face going forward in designing a “patient – doctor” partnership that can hopefully restore “some” of the basic strengths that were once a part of the “older” system of delivering healthcare to people when it was really a personal and individual service.

The partnerships that are most important in today’s world of healthcare are the following: pharmaceutical, insurance, medical, government, hospitals, and finally the doctor. The doctor is stuck between a “rock and hard place” because the system is driven by money and profits for the most part. Insurance companies control the payment systems and the patient – and doctor – are left to try and understand billing systems and other ramifications of the “treatment process”.

The healthcare model of the future

The way I see it now is that we are EACH responsible for our own health (the new paradigm) and the outcomes of our choices will determine the results that we obtain in securing – or losing – our health. In the period between 1988 and 2011, I was unable to afford health insurance so I “bet on myself” and the result turned out well. I used my fitness world as my insurance program and made sure to protect myself from risk to the best of my ability while training my body, mind and spirit to be as healthy and fit as possible.

Once I qualified for Medicare at 65 in 2011, I continued to behave as though I had no insurance and have done quite well with this strategy to the present day. It does not mean that I will NEVER need to see a doctor or use the insurance I now have, it just means that I have been able to live in a world of my OWN making without ever being “stuck” in a system that does not know me and could care less about what I need. I believe I am an example of the possibility of health as it could exist in the future if we each take care of ourselves properly every day of our lives and remember the aspects that WILL characterize our true individual healthcare program:

  • what we think – whether our thoughts are constructive or destructive;
  • what we eat – whether we eat healthy and natural foods as opposed to unhealthy, packaged foods full of preservatives;
  • what we feel – whether our emotions are positive (e.g. love, compassion, patience, understanding, etc…) or negative (hatred, anger, frustration, etc…);
  • what we choose to do (or not do) – a number of lifestyle choices such as smoking, fitness and using drugs, will impact our health;
  • what we believe.

This “wellness” concept I am describing is in “play” today in many forms and is increasingly becoming the “model” by which all healthcare programs will be judged in the future. True “prevention” to me is NOT only testing for disease but depends on making the best choices we can every single day of our lives and becoming responsible and accountable for those choices going forward (personal responsibility). I am not saying we will never need others to help us because the unforeseen aspects of life always have a way of “showing up” in our lives regardless of how carefully and thoughtfully we have behaved in our lives.

What I believe to be the healthcare model of the future going forward will be a partnership not only with ourselves but with professionals who have the time, knowledge, and ability to address our needs from an aspect of “healing – not curing” what ails us.

When my father passed away from cancer in November of 1983 at the age of 64, he had taken on no responsibility for what had gotten him sick in the first place. He had also taken no part in his treatment to try and overcome the challenges he was going to face going forward. I believe this “passive” behavior played a part in contributing to his death at a relatively early age. Smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise and many stressors “seen and unseen”, “known and unknown” (and much more) probably “disabled” his ability to know what was happening to his body as he aged.

This experience at age 37 probably did more for me than I will ever know since I would be tested in the years ahead by many failures, challenges, hurts, resentments, guilt and suffering – all CAUSED by me and the choices I made in my own life. The ONE thing I did right was make a commitment to my OWN health and fitness needs and when the time came to deal with the consequences of my choices – I was able to DO SOMETHING I loved – and that was run. This is why I can say today that running saved my life – because I truly believe that it did. Fitness was my anchor. My advice to you today?rsz_healthy

  • Get moving!
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Create positive health habits by making thoughtful choices.
  • Don’t wallow in the past and dump all your regrets.
  • Don’t let your fears dominate your thinking and be open to change.
  • Bless your gifts and those that love you.
  • Be grateful for being alive today and never take your life for granted.
  • Remember to smile everyday and be open to new experiences.
  • Get off your phone and step away from your devices – and computer – and “take a break” from self imposed pressure and stressors.
  • Finally, take time to be with your own thoughts and let them “wash over you” until you feel happy with what you are thinking. WHAT WE THINK – WE BECOME”.

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of articles on this subject. My brain is in gear and I hope you enjoy – and use – the thoughts that are coming from it. I know I will!

Read Part II of this article.

About Nicholas Prukop

Nicholas Prukop, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, is a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book "Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit" and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where we can each contribute our own unique gifts to life. Recently, he has written a series of 50 articles for the website askthetrainer.com outlining the key ideas and knowledge contained in his book and which will assist anyone – of any age - to “grow older – and not old”. Nick is excited to be a part of Healthynewage as it moves forward to change lives and leave the world a little bit better than we found it.

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