Health IS Wealth—and It’s the BEST Birthday Gift!

Today, April 18, I celebrate my 83rd birthday. Eighty-three! As a kid, I never thought I’d last that long; eighty-three seemed ancient. But the older I get, the younger eighty-three becomes. After all, age is just a number. What’s more important is health…and attitude.

So, as I considered what message I might want to share with you all today, the thought that jumped to mind was,

“Health is wealth.”

As a child growing up healthy but poor in a tiny apartment in Queens, I took my health for granted, but I was well aware of the difference money could make in one’s life. So, like most young people, I came of age focusing on income. Not that I was aiming for opulence; nevertheless, the things I wanted to do and achieve required money: a car, an education, a home, children, my own business, retirement. I focused on money as the means to pay for all of these things.

But the longer I live, the more I appreciate how much I undervalued the health that was actually my greatest source of wealth. Without it, achieving anything would have been far more difficult.

I see this same set of circumstances all too often in my medical practice: my patients sacrifice their health to meet the demands of the workplace, or to fulfill their own ambitions. They think they can neglect their diet, their relationships, their skincare and sleep, their exercise routine, and their stress management because—for a while—they experience no consequences.

Some of them get an early wake-up call: a pain in their chest that prompts them to get blood work, or a stress test, and make changes to their lifestyle before they have a heart attack. Or their doctor orders a glucose tolerance test that tells them they’re pre-diabetic, and they learn how to reverse the condition with diet, stress management, and exercise.

Too often, though, they wait too long to take corrective action—and then end up having to spend their wealth trying to recapture their health. Money isn’t much consolation if you’re fighting cancer, or heart disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or a host of other illnesses.

Even though I have been fortunate to enjoy good health my entire life—and also fortunate enough to understand and practice the things I should do to maintain my health—the years have inevitably caught up with me. I no longer have the energy I once did; my knees and hips can’t do what they once could. I recently was thrown right off my treadmill, when it sprang into action at a much higher speed than I was anticipating.

Although none of these complaints is life-threatening, they do remind me of how important our investment in health really is. And that, the longer we live, the more likely it is that we will experience accidents and injuries. We can’t pretend we’re 20-year-old weekend warriors when we’re not. Some prudence and caution are called for!

Of course, as a dermatologist, I am frequently judged by the appearance of my skin. Yet most people don’t realize that the things I do to take care of my skin are not simply superficial; they are the same things that protect my health overall. Skincare IS healthcare.

For example, “eating my water” and maintaining the health of my cellular membranes through diet, protects every cell in my body, not ONLY my skin cells.

Similarly, the things I do to manage my stress—including exercise, digital detox, and maintaining my personal relationships—reduce inflammation throughout my body, as well as reducing inflammation, puffiness, dark circles, and lack of muscle tone in my skin.

Third, the things I do to care for my skin also benefit my overall health—protecting my cells from ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and other inflammation-inducers, sealing moisture into my body, and even protecting me against Alzheimer’s. After all, our skin is our largest organ!

Finally, throughout my adult life I’ve made it a practice to stay connected with my Inner Toddler—that optimistic person who is delighted by each new day, isn’t afraid to make messes, try new things, fall down, or even to fail. He simply gets back up and tries again.

I’ve also made it a priority to stay in touch with my passion—the things that make me excited to get up each morning. Feeding our passion is especially important as we age. We can become blasé, or bored—in which case, it may be time to find a new passion! That happened to me when a post-operative recovery period limited my mobility—and out of the desperation of boredom I discovered a passion for painting! Another late-in-life passion is reminding people about the dangers of Cultural Stress and the importance of practicing Modern Wellness.

So, at eighty-three I remain healthy and energized and hopeful that the best is yet to come—I just have to let it enter.

I wish the same for you!


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