Let's face it: we rely heavily on our cars. We want a vehicle that runs well, starts when the key is turned, and gets us where we need to go. One that is large enough to haul kids, friends, and stuff. And preferably one that looks good too!
Many of us know some car upkeep basics. We may be able to keep it clean, pump the fuel, see when the tires are going flat, put water in the radiator, and recognize that the battery is going dead. We lock it securely and do our best to protect it from damage. But when we look at the engine, we may be intimidated.
When the car starts to squeak or grind, we quickly tell our mechanic. Granted, some are better than others at scheduling regular checks and changing the oil. The rest of us are just happy when the car runs well.
It’s so inconvenient when the car suddenly breaks down, and it so often happens at the most inopportune moment. If the engine gets regular maintenance, many problems will be found early and can be fixed before becoming a complete disaster. Responsibly doing all we can to maintain a vehicle inside and out can keep us relatively free of unpleasant surprises—saving us time, inconvenience, and money.
Just as we are aware of the basic principles of keeping a car operating well, we should know at least a few important basics for a well-functioning, healthy body:
- Take time for relaxation and inspiration
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily
- Eat a healthful, balanced diet
- Maintain appropriate weight
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep every night
Maybe you’re doing a fairly good job with lifestyle habits. You know they are a huge part of feeling well and in protecting against disease. But just as cars require maintenance, our bodies also need regular, complete physical evaluations—checking our internal systems and functions. Lots of us procrastinate or simply avoid these exams. As long as we look good and feel good, who needs a doctor, right? Wrong!
Getting regular internal checkups (including lab tests, x-rays, etc.) is the only way to be alerted early when subtle changes start. Catching these potentially detrimental changes early—and treating them with lifestyle modifications or medications—can be significantly beneficial to our quality of life, to our financial resources, and, most importantly, to our longevity.
Checkups under our “hoods” can reveal emerging problems, such as:
1. Blood Pressure: High levels can quietly perform irreversible damage before symptoms develop.
2. Cholesterol: This is one of the best predictors of heart disease and potential heart attack.
3. Blood Sugar: This affects blood vessels and nerves. In diabetes, unhealthy blood sugar levels can cause multiple problems with the heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, and entire circulatory system.
4. Cancers: Breast, cervical, prostate, colorectal, and skin cancers are largely treatable with good prognoses, if caught early!
5. Osteoporosis: This is a real concern in many countries; an estimated 10 million Americans are currently affected. Early detection offers opportunity for good treatment.
6. Hearing and Vision: These should be checked every two to four years: eyes for glaucoma/ retinal problems and cataracts after age 40, and ears for hearing loss.
7. Immunizations: These can include vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, flu, pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis, hepatitis A & B, measles, polio, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and shingles. Your doctor can help you know which are most important in your part of the world to avoid debilitating illnesses.
Family history and environmental and lifestyle components play important and unavoidable roles in our risk for some diseases. Being as healthy as possible doesn’t guarantee we will never become ill. But doing nothing in order to avoid discovering a problem—or waiting until something is obviously wrong before going to the doctor—can cost more in treatment expenses, quality of life, and the ability to work and care for the family.
It’s good sense to maintain our cars, and it is also a wise investment (and positive witness!) to be responsible stewards of our health, doing all we can to take care of the amazing bodies God has given us.
Have you had a good physical checkup lately? Call your doctor and make an appointment soon.
Eight Weeks to Wellness, Workbook, Chapter 8, Wellsource, Inc., 2009;