“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Ben Franklin’s words are just as true today as when they were first uttered. Ben Franklin was speaking of fire safety but we generally apply that adage to our health.
Today let’s look at things that are preventable. Keep in mind that nothing is perfect in this regard — there will always be exceptions. I’m not a gambler, and I’m definitely not going to gamble with my health, so I’m going to go with what has been proven to work. And prevention is definitely a lot easier than any cure.
Take colon health. Yeah, funny place to start in a sports column. But colon cancer is almost completely curable if caught early. I told my story in an earlier column — I have a strong history of colon cancer in my family. Because of that, I’ve placed myself and my health in the hands of Dr. Ed Brown, gastroenterologist. I go through a colonoscopy every time Dr. Brown says so. Caught early, it’s curable. Prevention.
There was a controversy several years ago about mammograms. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that early detection means early intervention and better outcomes.
And skin cancer. What we don’t realize is that lots of cancers in other places started with skin cancer that metastasized (migrated) to other areas. Found early, those are treatable. So I see Dr. Paul Unkefer, my dermatologist, annually. About three years ago, he did this thing that sort of “fried” pre-cancerous lesions off of my head and face. It wasn’t fun but it is a very effective treatment of what can become skin cancer. Again, prevention.
Heart disease? Well, that’s mainly in your boat. Eat healthy. Exercise daily. Control your blood pressure. One problem is that a lot of heart disease is in your genetic makeup so you can’t do a lot about it. I happen to have a pretty bad gene pool for heart disease. I’ve been on blood pressure medicine since I was about 40, and despite being rather fit otherwise, I have a significant case of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
That’s why I’m well known to my primary care physician Dr. Kevin Turner and my cardiologist, Dr. Peter Scott. I’m depending on the two of them to keep me ticking.
What about ankle problems? The solution is not to always wear ankle braces and there really isn’t such a thing as “weak ankles.” There are unstable ankles and maybe those need a brace but to prevent ankle problems, exercising to make your ankles stronger is the key. You don’t do silly stuff like run in the yard in flip-flops. Need to know what to do? Consult a physical therapist or athletic trainer.
Concussions? Hard to prevent as we generally avoid collisions (except in collision sports) but what we can do is prevent most of the serious consequences of a concussion. If a blow to the head results in headache, dizziness, and especially loss of consciousness, then you should treat it like a concussion. A concussion damages the brain and makes it vulnerable. A second injury can have more severe consequences. If you think you have had a concussion, get it checked out and prevent those more profound problems that come from Second Concussion Syndrome.
Knee problems? You might think there’s not a lot you can do to prevent them. But there is. Teenage female athletes are almost expected to develop patellar (kneecap) problems, but there is a lot you can do to prevent those. Make your hips stronger. Work with a coach to learn how to land from a jump without your knees bowing inward. Control how your foot hits the ground through arch supports and orthotics.
Shoulder problems? Many of those are preventable. Regardless of the source, strengthening the muscles on the back of your shoulder, particularly those that pull back on your scapulae (shoulder blades), is essential.
Be proactive. Take control of your health. Your body will thank you for it.