I might have already mentioned that I’m in the midst of Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” course. Dave likes to talk about “changing your family tree” in terms of dumping debt, learning how to manage money wisely, and then passing the information on to your kids, grandkids, etc. He is a proponent of change… Changing the way future generations think of finances: Rising up from the roots of money mis-management, growing a more solid financial foundation for your family, and then sustaining this positive direction of financial growth for future generations. I like it.

I was pondering the idea of “changing your family tree” today as I thought of two friends who recently reported to me — in the same day, at separate times — that one of their parents was dealing with a major medical crisis.

Lord, time flies.

I am approaching the age when my friends and I are having to think of the health of our parents. Let’s face it: We’re all getting older, and mom and dad — our protectors, our guardians, the backbones of our family of origin — will need help from us at some point in the future. It’s a scary thought to me; I’m not ready for it. Luckily, my parents are both extremely healthy so I don’t have to worry about it… Yet.

My parents with their pride and joy — their grandbaby.

To my knowledge, the parents of the two friends I mentioned above do not fall into the medical conditions and demographics that I am about to discuss. However, their current medical crises got me thinking about the medical conditions — in general — that our aging society is dealing with today.

Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes together account for the majority of all non-accident/injury deaths, and they are largely preventable according to numerous studies. “An impressive body of research has implicated modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, diet and body weight in the causes of these diseases,” state the authors of an August 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine article. (I realize this is not the most current article, but the evidence has not changed over the last 2.5 years…)

A review of this article states that:

“After adjusting for age, sex, education level and occupation, individuals with more healthy lifestyle factors were less likely to develop chronic diseases. Participants who had all four factors at the beginning of the study had a 78 percent lower risk of developing any of the chronic diseases during the follow-up period than those who had none of the healthy factors. The four factors were associated with a 93 percent reduced risk of diabetes, 81 percent reduced risk of heart attack, 50 percent reduced risk of stroke and 36 percent reduced risk of cancer.

The largest reduction in risk was associated with having a BMI lower than 30, followed by never smoking, at least 3.5 hours of physical activity and then adhering to good dietary principles.”

Are you engaging in any of these four risk factors? Are you carrying extra body fat (notice I did not say weight, as some people weigh much more due to muscle mass/bone structure, therefore BMI may not be the best measure of excess body fat… But I digress…)? Do you smoke (dear heaven, I hope you said “no”)? Are you exercising regularly? How is your diet? Are you eating enough produce (please say “yes!”)? Is the majority of your food processed (please say “no!”)?

me and my boy

Think about these risk factors in relation to your life. Think about your future, and the future of your children who are going to have to deal with you when you develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer. Do you want your children to have to deal with that? Or do you want to live a vibrant life for as long as possible?

Of course, sh*t happens and sometimes the healthiest person who does everything “right” will still develop one of these chronic diseases. But give it your best shot to avoid falling victim to them. When you change your behaviors and adopt healthier lifestyle habits you will pass these habits, traits, and values on to your children and grandchildren.

You can change your family tree.

A legacy of health is the best gift you can leave your family as time (inevitably) marches on.

What are you doing to leave a legacy of health for your loved ones? Please comment below!

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