Jan 02

Integrating Health Risks for Your Own Health

A health risk factor can be your age, sex, lifestyle, personal health history or family health history.

If you have certain risk factors, such as your dad and his brothers and sisters all had diabetes, you probably would be considered at high risk for diabetes. That doesn't mean, however, you are going to develop diabetes. And  not being at high risk doesn't mean you won't develop diabetes. The risk factors are there so you and your health care team can determine how often and when you should receive preventive care services for diabetes, for example.

When you understand your own risk factors you become an active partner in managing your wellness. Keep in mind that risk factors don't take place in isolation. For instance, if you stop eating apples because of the pesticides and replace apples with French fries, you are not going to be improving your health risks. Or why would you even worry about missing your daily supplement of vitamin B-12 if you're smoking twenty cigarettes a day?

Also keep in mind that when scientists report their findings, they speak of certain results as statistically significant. That's an arbitrarily agreed upon result that says the probability of the results happening by pure chance is less than one in 20. The problem is some studies with statistically significant results eventually turn out to be wrong.

What's more, some of the results are less relevant than we first think. For instance, if your risk factor A increases your risk of disease X by 100 percent but if the baseline risk is only 1 in 1000, the risk factor would be 2 in 1000. On the other hand, another study says your risk for B increases your risk of disease Y by 25 percent. However the baseline risk for disease Y is 400 in 1000 so by raising it 25 percent it becomes 500 out of 1000 or half.

So what does all this mean? You need to take an active part in your preventive health, you need to rely on the expertise of others, and you need to use common sense and then make your decision.

Do you think about your risk factors? the ones you inherited? the ones you bring to the table with your lifestyle? Do you have any plans to assess your health risks? Talk to your doctor about your risks?

Let us know how you deal with your health risks. Maybe your actions will help someone else.

To your Success at healthy aging.

Ruthan Brodsky

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