Thursday, May 5, 2011

Your Car or Your Life

I missed my appointment and was furious at myself. How could I forget my appointment with my auto dealership for 60,000 miles maintenance check? I should have been upset; I need my car to run smoothly for me to reach my destination. I am sure you can relate to that. After a while, my thought drifted to other machines that require maintenance on a regular basis. Our heating and air conditioning unit, our lawn mowers, our roofs and gutters to name a few. Most of us are good at maintaining our autos, machines and houses. Are we as diligent about maintaining our own body? Think about it.

In my 25 years experience as a physician, I have seen countless patients who find out about their hypertension only during a mandatory medical exam for truck driving or they find out that they are diabetic only during the medical examination required by the insurance company. In late 1980s, I worked on a National Institute of Health’s research project on kidney failure in diabetic patients. We noticed that some patients developed renal failure in about 10 years while it took 25 years for others. So what was the biggest difference in the two groups? Yes, how effectively one controlled blood sugar was a factor, however the finding that surprised us was that blood pressure control was as important. Some, who developed kidney failure in a very short time, were not even aware that they had diabetes and high blood pressure.

The irony is that screening for blood pressure and diabetes are about the simplest, least expensive tests in medicine. So what are we to do? Everyone, even the healthiest among us, should go for a physical once a year. Clearly, our body deserves at the very least as much attention as our cars. So what is more important to you, your car or your life?

It reminds me of Jack Benny radio sketch. A mugger corners Jack Benny in a deserted alley, shows him his gun, and asks him. ‘Your money or your life?’ When he hears no response, he asks the question again, this time more forcefully. To this Jack Benny replies, ‘Don’t rush me, I am thinking, I am thinking’.