“I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” When it comes to preventing heart disease and stroke, the #1 and #4 most common causes of death in the US, respectively, I think of those famous and poignant words by the late great Michael Jackson many years ago.
As a neurologist who has dedicated his life to diagnosing, treating and preventing strokes, I am often faced with the unenviable job of having to tell some individual or family member that they or someone that they love has suffered a stroke. The largest tragedy of this unrehearsed, but all too common narrative is having to explain that heart disease and stroke are largely preventable diseases.
Surprisingly, although many people have some knowledge of these common killers, they have ignored their own health or personal responsibility related to the development and/or treatment of these diseases.
As a physician working in an acute care hospital, I automatically start the complex series of ruminations, studies, and medications that any well trained doctor makes when faced with either of these life or death situations, regardless of person, situation, or insurance status. But as a human being and a person of faith, my heart bleeds as I think, “if only this person had had a better diet, exercised more, decreased his salt intake, took her medication, visited his doctor, then perhaps this could have been prevented.”
Although far from perfect, health care providers have standards of training and care that we must uphold. But as a society, the most important weapons in the fight against these two common killers (e.g. eating right, exercising, and seeing your doctor regularly) are often left abandoned.
The most effective way to decrease the numbers of people suffering from heart disease and stroke, is for “the man in the mirror to make that change” in his/her lifestyle. You are the cure!
Dr. Richard Benson (left) with Michelle Williams (formally from Destiny’s Child) and
Dr. Rani Whitfield (the hip hop doc), both National Power To End Stroke Ambassadors