Sometimes, I am my own worst enemy. I tend to procrastinate. My rationalization is that all journalists are natural procrastinators and we need a deadline to get anything done. I offer my true apologies to my colleagues.
This spring, I taught myself a hard lesson about my duty delay tactics. With excitement and joy, I prepped the new raised vegetable garden beds my husband and sons built for me. Earlier this season, I had the soil tested by the University of Minnesota. You can mail them small soil samples for cheap and after analyzing them, they send you suggestions for fertilization so your plants have the proper balance of nutrients. Armed with this information, I spent the time to make sure I filled the beds with the right blend of existing soil, compost and fertilizer. Then I bought some seeds and seedlings. But instead of planting them within a reasonable amount of time, I got super busy with getting my work done in order to leave town for my son's graduation. During this time, I made sure the seedlings were cared for, but the garden beds sat, unattended, for three weeks. Until last weekend. I returned to find my meticulously prepared beds covered in opportunistic weeds. I mean COVERED, with some weeds standing more than a foot tall. By not finishing my garden tasks, I made hours of more work for myself. It's a good thing I like pulling weeds! It's sort of a Zen thing for me. But it was certainly a waste of time and also a bit stressful because my initial reaction upon seeing the situation was to scold myself for being lazy.
I believe that procrastination is the opposite of prevention, at least that's true for me. By planning ahead a little better, I could have saved a lot of time, effort and stress. Plus, my garden would be growing already. From what I've learned as a healthcare reporter, prevention is key to health and wellbeing. I've interviewed many experts in numerous areas of medicine and most of them make sure to include tips on prevention in the conversation. No matter what their specialty is — cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics, pulmonology, oncology or surgery, etc. — they all mention that a little bit of prevention can go a long way.
Recently, I interviewed doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes for an upcoming podcast. One of them, Dr. Amir Moheet, a University of Minnesota Medical Center endocrinologist and researcher, told me that sometimes you can do everything right in terms of lifestyle choices, and you still end up developing type 2 diabetes. Definitely not fair, but that's how life is.
"But if you practice prevention and work to incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into your everyday life, you may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes," says Moheet. "In some cases, lifestyle modifications can help people reduce medications."
Not only do healthy lifestyle choices help reduce your risk of diabetes, but also they help reduce your risk of many other diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and some cancers. So even if you end up getting a disease or condition that you're trying to prevent, healthy lifestyle choices may help you feel better physically and mentally. They help boost your overall health and, I am convinced, your happiness level.
What are the preventive strategies the doctors I interview repeatedly mention? Here's a list of the highlights:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy oils and fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel). Avoid processed foods.
- Limit alcohol.
- Don't smoke.
- See your healthcare provider for scheduled appointments.
- Get vaccinated.
- Participate in screening tests recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Take medication subscribed by your healthcare provider.
I always like to add "spend time outside, in nature or in the garden" to that 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 weedy chaos I created through procrastination. But at least, my extra work will count toward healthy living lifestyle choices. Gardening is a great way to fit 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 reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.