Illustrations: Ciara Phelan
I often marvel at the medical discoveries that have made it possible for so many of us to live longer and healthier lives—from antibiotics to cholesterol-lowering drugs to surgical advancements, like the heart bypass, that have profoundly helped members of my own family. But good health isn't about waiting for the next big breakthrough. I sometimes worry that by focusing so much of our money and resources on treating diseases, we forget a simpler, less invasive, and often more affordable alternative: preventing health issues in the first place.
Last month I removed a tumor from the brain of a woman who had smoked for decades. Had she quit a few years earlier, she would have considerably reduced her chances of ever ending up on my operating table. It was a sharp reminder that we all can take steps not just to give up vices, but also to optimize our well-being by striving to be in the best possible health. You already know how effective diet and exercise can be (if all Americans worked out for 30 minutes a day, we could reduce our incidence of heart attacks by as much as 30 to 40 percent), but have you ever considered newer solutions for staying well, like taking probiotics or using a standing desk at work? Ingenious innovations are emerging all the time, and there's now a world of wellness strategies that can help you be happier, healthier, and less stressed.
Here's my challenge to you: Do something different every day to surprise and strengthen both your body and your mind. You may not always get results, but I predict you'll make real progress in the quest to feel your best. Don't get me wrong—if you're sick, you should understand your options, take your medicine, and undergo the appropriate tests and procedures. And, of course, you should never blindly try something simply because your sister's friend's cousin said it worked for her. Do your homework and ask the hard questions, but remember that we're at the frontier of an exciting new era in medicine. And it begins with you.
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From the February 2014 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!