Living Lighter with a Personal Health Plan

by Head Health Nutter on November 19, 2012

Last post we learned 4 steps to heart healthy living. If you’re having a difficult time making lifestyle changes, you’ll enjoy today’s guest post by patient care advocate Bill Paquin. It contains 3 steps to creating a personal health plan that may just be what you need to get moving on those changes!  

I love the concept of living lighter. For many of us health is a burden, weighing us down, making life more difficult than it needs to be. As a fan and reader of Stephanie’s work, you will know that we have it in our power to make small everyday decisions to improve our health and our lives, whether having smoothies for breakfast or routinely performing a detox on our bodies.

The more we improve our habits, our nutrition and our approach to the world, the healthier we will become. And with personal health comes better living.

And yet…

…while making better food and exercise choices is important to our health today, to truly live a “lighter” life, free from the burdens of bad health today AND tomorrow, we need to think about our future health the same we think about our finances.

Think about it. If you have a 401k, IRA, RRSP or pension, you have a plan for your financial well-being in retirement. If you have visited a financial planner, you have thought about what you will want your finances to be when you retire and you will put a plan in place to get you there.

It’s amazing to me how few people, even those that are conscious about their health, don’t think about their health with a longer time horizon. Why don’t we treat our health the same way we treat our finances? The truth is I don’t know, but I am on a mission to change that.

Join me in creating a personal health plan for yourself and your family. Here are 3 steps to getting started:

Step 1: Audit your Health

How healthy are you today? Start with the basics: weight, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol and exercise levels. Get a piece of paper and write down everything. If you ankle hurts when your run, write it down. If you get acid reflux after drinking red wine, write it down.

Get as detailed as possible, including any family history of illness, conditions you suffer from and your emotional state. Get it all down. It will all help you get a picture of your health today.

I started my audit with a spreadsheet, then migrated my data to an online personal health record that integrates with a wireless scale and pedometer so I can capture my future numbers automatically. I don’t care if you write it in a journal. The act of writing it down is the equivalent of drawing the proverbial line in the sand.

Step 2: Develop an Action Plan

Now that you know where you are, it’s time to figure out where you want to go. Translate what you learned in your health audit into an action plan to address the issues you need to address. Maybe you need to go to the dentist or exercise more frequently or get control of your weight, or even start an anti-inflammatory diet to address your chronic pain. Whatever it is, write down your goals for improving your health now and in the future.

And I want you to do this in conjunction with your family and physician. They are important partners in your personal health plan. Since you will create a plan that takes into consideration your short and long term goals, a physician can help you understand what you need to do to prevent disease. If you have a history of colon cancer, know when you should have a colonoscopy. Same goes for prostate cancer for men. When should you get checked for osteoporosis? Map it all out. Your plan should be time based.

In other words, you will have short term goals like diet, exercise and BMI goals, but you will also have preventative care goals like annual dentist exams or a trip to the dermatologist every three years to get your moles checked. Under Obamacare, preventative care is covered without a copay. Take advantage of this benefit.

Step 3: Measure your Progress

You now know your baseline health numbers. I call these your personal health indicators or PHIs. You captured them in your health audit and set goals for improving your PHIs over time in your action plan. This plan may include regular exercise, an improved diet and preventative screening.

Now that you are following your plan, your next step is to measure your progress. I actually use fitbit.com to do this. You have the ability to make sure you are making progress against your action plan. Sit down once a week or once a month to review where you are relative to your plan. I weigh myself every day to make sure I am staying on target.

You will be surprised how much awareness matters in keeping yourself on the right path. Some weeks or months you may fall off the wagon, it happens to everyone, but stick with it. You are always only one day from getting started again!

Whether you go forward with developing a personal health plan or not (and I hope you do) it’s important that you expand your thinking beyond the next diet or detox to a more long term approach to your health. Continue to do the little things like reading this blog!

BUT don’t let the bigger picture escape you. You invest in health so that over the long term you can live a lighter, happier life. Like any good investor, invest for long term gains.

About the Author

As the CEO of Vertical Health, patient care advocate Bill Paquin works to convey accurate health information to consumers. He operates web sites including SpineUniverse.com, which is focused on improving patient care associated with back and neck pain. Bill is a husband and father, and writes about improving patient care in our current healthcare system.

Have you ever designed a personal health plan before? Did you cover these steps? Did you do anything different?

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