While recently discussing health outcomes with a patient I was frank enough to say to them that my success rate in keeping people alive was zero. We all die. As a medical practitioner my role is really about quantity and quality. We strive to give patients both, but nature, genetics, lifestyles and sometimes just bad luck intervenes and the quantity or quality component is impacted. As individuals we are all patients and the choices we make – the scientifically proven preventative health choices – are the best we can do to maximise the balance.
I have patients that drink like a fish and smoke like a chimney and, although I think they are crazy at reducing their longevity, I have had them say they enjoy it and are happy to wear the consequence as they are fully informed. But when health fails due to bad choices inevitably patients grasp at options. And theirs is rarely an easy acceptance of their lot.
So I write today about choices. I have been a family General Practitioner now for long enough to see the cycle of life in all it’s glory. Those that make the call to live a full and healthy life by making sensible choices early on usually have the ability to accept bad health luck and battle it with fortitude and with the knowledge that their good choices put them in a better position for modern medicine to facilitate a positive outcome. And statistically, their risks are lower for a significant health impact at at earlier age.
I love it when one of my octogenarians complains when I explain to them that they have worn out something – a knee or hip, their vision or hearing. May we all live long enough to wear the bits out. One of the wonderful advances in medicine is that we are pretty good at replacing or boosting the bits that we wear out by longevity. And that means we have the ability to maintain quality of life as the quantity increases.