If we could heal ourselves, would we? Before you automatically answer yes, think about this: Three of every four dollars spent on healthcare in 2010 were spent on medical problems caused by our unhealthy lifestyle choices. You don’t have to be a math whizz to see that equals 75% of healthcare costs. The worst risk factors are poor diet, tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. These choices produce the following top chronic diseases, shown with how much they cost in 2010 health care dollars: heart disease and stroke $432 Billion, diabetes $174 Billion, and lung disease $154 Billion.  Those top chronic diseases account for 7 out of 10 deaths each year. Obviously, we won’t live forever, but 7 out of 10 people do not die of old age. That’s a sobering thought.

So let me ask the question again. If we could heal ourselves, would we? More to the point, why don’t we?

These health statistics are a symptom of another, related human problem: how we make decisions. I know from personal experience. When I was 17 I decided smoking would make me look more manly. My brother and father smoked, why shouldn’t I? I’m not blaming them – this was my decision. Over the next ten years I worked my way up to smoking a pack and a half a day. When I woke up in the morning I would sit up in bed, grab a cigarette from the pack, light it with my lighter, take a drag and stand up to begin my day. How stupid was that? It took me two years of determined effort to quit. Chewing gum helped me, but I chewed so much my jaws got sore. Still, that was better than lung cancer.

Why did it take me so long to quit? Obviously there was a certain amount of nicotine addiction, but I think the biggest problem was simply that it had become a habit. Later in life I learned that thinking the same thought over and over has an affect on our brains. As with other thoughts and actions, repetition solidifies the way our brains are wired. Our habits become automatic, at least in part, because we have changed our brains to accept them. Once these new thought paths are established, it makes it easier for us to follow them.

I quit smoking over 40 years ago. Now 70, I have no major health issues and I am not medicating for anything. I realize part of my good health is due to genetics, and I thank my ancestors for that. But part of it is due to my lifestyle choices and I’m glad I made them. No matter what your age, focus on getting rid of any bad choices you have made. You will never regret it. I promise.