This spring, I gave myself a hard lesson in my late-service tactics. With enthusiasm and joy, I prepared the new raised vegetable garden beds that my husband and sons built for me. Earlier this season I had the soil tested by the University of Minnesota. You can send them small soil samples for cheap and after analyzing them, they send you fertilization suggestions so that your plants have the right balance of nutrients. Armed with this information, I took the time to make sure I filled the beds with the right mix of existing soil, compost, and fertilizer. Then I bought seeds and seedlings. But instead of planting them within a reasonable time, I have been very busy doing my job in order to get out of town for my son’s graduation. During this time, I made sure that the seedlings were looked after, but the beds were left unattended for three weeks. Until last weekend. I returned to find my meticulously prepared beds covered in opportunistic weeds. I mean COVERED, with a few weeds over a foot tall. By not finishing my gardening chores, I put in extra hours of work. Good thing I like to pull weeds! It’s a bit zen for me. But it was definitely a waste of time and also a little stressful because my first reaction to seeing the situation was to scold me for being lazy.
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I believe procrastination is the opposite of prevention, at least that’s true for me. By planning a little better in advance, I could have saved a lot of time, effort and stress. In addition, my garden would already be growing. From what I have learned as a health journalist, prevention is the key to health and well-being. I have interviewed many experts in many areas of medicine and most of them make sure to include prevention tips in the conversation. Whatever their specialty – cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, pulmonology, oncology or surgery, etc. – they all mention that a little prevention can go a long way.
Recently, I interviewed doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes for an upcoming podcast. One of them, Dr Amir Moheet, an endocrinologist and researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, told me that sometimes you can do everything right in terms of your lifestyle choices and you always end up developing type 2 diabetes. Certainly not fair, but that’s how life is.
“But if you practice prevention and work to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into your daily life, you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes,” says Moheet. “In some cases, lifestyle changes can help people reduce their drug use. “
Healthy lifestyle choices not only help lower your risk for diabetes, but they also help lower your risk for many other diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. So even if you end up contracting an illness or condition that you are trying to prevent, healthy lifestyle choices can help you feel better physically and mentally. They help improve your overall health and, I’m sure, your level of happiness.
What are the preventive strategies that the doctors I interview repeatedly mention? Here is a list of the highlights:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Regular exercise.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy oils and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel). Avoid processed foods.
- Limit alcohol.
- Do not smoke.
- Consult your health care provider for scheduled appointments.
- To get vaccinated.
- Take the screening tests recommended by your health care provider.
- Take any medications prescribed by your health care provider.
I always like to add “spending time outdoors, in nature or in the garden” to this list. As for my garden, it looks like I’ll be spending quite a bit of time there this week, as I work to undo the weed chaos I created through procrastination. But at least my extra work will count towards healthy lifestyle choices. Gardening is a great way to incorporate more activity and movement into your day.
Vivien Williams is a Video Content Producer for NewsMD and the host of “Health Fusion”. She can be contacted at email@example.com.