17 Ways to Take Charge of Your Health



by Kevin W. Fergusson, M.D.



Healing happens through relationships, primarily the patient-physician relationship, the patient-nurse relationship, and the patient-caregiver relationship. Create and nurture these relationships.

"A man of knowledge understands others, a man of wisdom also understands himself.

Lao-Tzu (604 BC - 531 BC)



Know the early warning signs of disease. For information on the early warning signs of diseases go to: www.drpen.com/warning signs.

"To handle difficulties, handle them when they are small and just beginning.




The battle against disease is war. Single soldiers don't win wars. Everyone needs allies in the war against disease and illness.

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking down resistance without fighting."

Sun-Tzu (~300 BC)



Do not hope on illness not coming, but depend on yourself being prepared. The primary goal of the patient-physician relationship is to create an effective therapeutic alliance. If you do not currently have a primary-care doctor, make an appointment. Do it today.

To find a family physician in your area go to: http://familydoctor.org/cgi-bin/finddoc.pl.

To find a board-certified pediatrician in your area go to http://www.abp.org/VERIFICA/Veritest.htm.

To find other physicians go to the American Medical Association's DoctorFinder at http://www.ama-assn.org/aps/amahg.htm.



Illness is an adversity, and adversity teaches us life's most valuable lessons. Life is precious. Defend it! Fight for it!

"Adversity teaches life's most valuable lessons. A kite rises because of an opposing wind."

Chinese Proverb



The insurance company is not the enemy. The government is not the enemy. The bureaucracy is not the enemy. The disease is the enemy. Do not lose your focus on what you are fighting and what you are fighting for.

"The person with courage and boldness, dares to die; The person with courage and reserve, fights to live."




Everyone is born with a different capacity for health and longevity, but your ability to reach your potential depends on how well you lay down the foundation for a long life: a healthy diet and regular exercise combined with avoiding high risk behaviors dig a deep foundation to reaching your maximum life expectancy.

See www.drpen.com/dietandexercise & www.drpen.com/highriskbehavior.

"The height of the wall depends on the depth of the foundation."

Chinese Proverb



Understand what your goals are in professional relationships. In this age of exploding medical knowledge and specialization, be sure to understand what you are trying to accomplish in the relationship and that your expectations are based on your goals. Insist on being treated with respect! Have courage! If you are not accomplishing your goals in a professional relationship, then discuss this with your doctor, your nurse, and/or your caregiver(s) and decide whether you need to make a change.

See also the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Have Surgery at http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/surgery.htm.

"If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow."

Chinese Proverb



Base your choice of a physician on character, competence, and communication skills. Friends and family can give valuable input on character and communication skills, but you should rely on the recommendations of other health professionals and the physician's certification accomplishments to determine competence.

"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends."

Japanese Proverb



When you go to your doctor, WRITE down all of your concerns and problems on a piece of paper. Give this piece of paper or a copy to your doctor, but be sure to underline or circle the one problem you are the most worried about.

Also see, www.drpen.com/doctorvisit.



Understand the role of time in the battle against disease. Disease can be deceptive and the opportunity to intervene fleeting. The judgement required to know if your symptoms are serious or not can be difficult to determine. If you are not sure, see your doctor sooner, not later.

See also www.drpen.com/screeningtests.



If you believe you have a medical problem, but you are not convinced of your diagnosis or not committed to the treatment plan, ask yourself why. Disease often wins the battle, not from having overwhelming odds, but from effective strategies cast to the side by neglect. Follow through until you are convinced of the diagnosis and how to win.

See also the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's How to Find Medical Information at http://www.niams.nih.gov/hi/topics/howto.htm.

"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop."

Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC)



Do not self-diagnose. Let the physician diagnose, but DO get the diagnosis from the physician. Have the physician write it down on a prescription pad, then look up the meaning and be sure you understand it.

For further information on what to do after you have a diagnosis, go to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Now You Have a Diagnosis: What's Next? at http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/diaginfo.htm.

"They certainly give very strange names to diseases."

Plato (347 AD - 427 AD)



The two primary tactics used to interpose a defense against disease are avoidance and vaccination. Know the recommended vaccines for your age group.

For further information, go to www.drpen.com/vaccines and www.drpen.com/avoidance.



Know the three main strategies physicians use to AIM their tactics in the fight against disease.


Attack to cure or contain the disease, or

Interpose a defense to block the disease, or

Make an escape to avoid the disease.

Know the two primary goals of physicians' recommendations:

To Improve the Quality of Life and/or

To Improve the Quantity of Life.

"In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things."

Miyamoto Musashi (1584 - 1645)



Understand the power of loyalty and relationships. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

"Prosperity is no just scale; adversity is the only balance to weigh friends."

Plutarch (46 AD - 120 AD)



Life is a struggle, and the winners learn how to adapt like a mountain tree beaten down by wind, rock falls, and ice, but always constantly rising to gain strength from the sun. If illness strikes and wounds, focus on recovery. Lean on your caregivers to give you strength. The humble bend and survive; the proud stand alone and perish.

"If a man withdraws his mind from the love of beauty, and applies it as sincerely to the love of the virtuous; if, in serving his parents, he can exert his utmost strength; if, in serving his country he can devote his life; if, in his relationships with his friends, his words are sincere-although men say that he has not learned, I will certainly say that he has."

Confucius, The Confucian Analects


From The Living Ancestor. Copyright 2002 by Kevin W. Fergusson, M.D. Excerpted by arrangement with DrPEN Publishing, LLC. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or click here.