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What You Don’t Know Might Not Kill You Today, But…

July 9, 2010

One of the many perks of working for the American Cancer Society is the opportunity, once a year, to take a Health Risk Assessment.

Crazy, I know, to think of a HRA as a perk, but it is just that. It’s an opportunity to get a snapshot of your current health status. Health Quotient is the tool we use through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. There are many similar tools available online, which can provide a holistic look at your overall health. The HRA questionnaire asks for input on your alcohol use, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, exercise, emotional health, nutrition, safety, stress, substance use, tobacco use, and weight. Once you’ve answered all questions, you receive a numeric health score. Think of it as your Health IQ. Optimal health is 100.

When I did my HRA last year, my score was 45. Frighteningly low, in part because I didn’t know my numbers, like my blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, etc. This year, I made it a point to get and know my numbers by undergoing a comprehensive physical exam (happy 41st birthday to me!), complete with EKG and chest x-ray. With that data in hand, I took my HRA a few months ago and scored an 85. Not bad, but could be better. Losing some weight will help bounce my score up when I take the assessment next time.

Knowing my numbers at this stage of my life is important. My dad died of a heart attack when he was 48; my grandfather had regular bouts of congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. This stuff runs in my family in a big way. Although my numbers are good — blood pressure normal, cholesterol normal, etc. — I can’t and don’t want to take chances. Not anymore.

I know there are a lot of people who think they’re better off not knowing. We see that a lot with cancer patients who had symptoms of disease but didn’t do anything about it because they didn’t want to hear a doctor say “you have cancer.” The same thing is true for heart disease and diabetes. We don’t want to know, so we just don’t go. The not knowing can kill you. Maybe not today, but eventually.

Thing is, amazing and miraculous drugs can help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. They don’t do it alone, though; these drugs aren’t designed to work by themselves. We still have to do our part by eating right and exercising. I’m guessing you already knew that part, though.

So, do yourself a favor. This year, find out your numbers if you don’t know them. Take a health risk assessment. Neither are painful, and they could help you make a change…for good.

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One Comment
  1. I think the HRA is invaluable too. When I first completed one last year, my overall score was high but what stood out was my need for stress management and exercise — which went together hand in hand. How convenient! Not exactly earth-shattering news to me, but it was a reality check I needed and it motivated me to take action. A year later, my score improved when I re-took the HRA and I’m seeing other benefits, like losing weight from exercising. I’m a big believer in the HRA so I hope others read your blog and decide to check it out.

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