Opinion: Caring for our health is a challenge that connects us

Ryan Hunton

If you are in good health, you have been given a great gift and responsibility. To make a sincere effort in taking care of one’s health is one of the greatest challenges that a person encounters throughout his or her lifetime.

Although it is ultimately an individual effort, it is a challenge that each of us faces daily. It connects us on a fundamental level, and it is something that we can discuss.

This semester, I hope to stimulate the discussion on topics that will help you understand your health and take care of it.

The knowledge that we have regarding health incorporates thousands of years of ancient traditions and hundreds of years of medical and scientific discoveries. I will talk about some of these traditions and discoveries as they relate to you.

We are fortunate to live in a particularly exciting time in healthcare. Many ancient traditions are being revisited as we search for new ways to conceptualize and treat disease.

The emphasis is becoming less on finding cures and more on incorporating positive lifestyle changes in order to prevent or minimize the debilitating effects of certain diseases.

We are finding that the habits that we have today are crucial to our health status later in life.

Even if the life expectancy in the United States is nearly 80 years old and the major diseases in our time are those of old age, health matters here and now. Studies are showing that major diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes begin on a microscopic and imperceptible level often in early adulthood (ages 18 – 25).

According to one study called CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults), being active during your college years can lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.

A condition such as hypertension (high blood pressure) is not a necessary factor of aging; it does not have to happen. Because of the prevalence of hypertension in the United States and worldwide, many assume that taking blood pressure medication is simply part of being old.

However, good nutrition, an active lifestyle, and stress-coping techniques throughout the lifespan can prevent hypertension from occurring, even in those individuals from families with a history of high blood pressure. Prevention means incorporating lifestyle changes at the earliest possible opportunity so that you remain at healthy.

Finally, although caring for one’s health is an individual effort, the implications for society are tremendous. Questions regarding how to fund Medicare, Medicaid, and a comprehensive healthcare system over the next decades can be made much easier if we collectively become more health-conscious and make better health decisions. In order for us to be healthy people in the next 20 to 30 years, each of us needs to make positive changes now.

Taking small steps now can make a big difference later. I hope that I can help you along the way.