By Lee Anne Grace
I’ve been reminded too many times recently that life is fragile. Some tragedies and illnesses are unavoidable, but many are preventable. We are often experts at taking care of others, but fail to take care of ourselves. As a parent, I certainly have been guilty of this practice. It is only recently that treating life as the gift it is has become a top priority. Viewing my well-being as a worthy investment of time has allowed me to be more fully present as a parent, family member, teacher and friend.
The reasons we don’t make our well-being important are varied. Many operate under a false sense of invincibility, thinking tragedy or serious illness will never strike them. Others have the mindset that by taking care of themselves they are being selfish, or that they don’t see themselves as worthy of diligent self-care.
Are you doing your part to prevent avoidable health problems and tragedies?
• Eat well-balanced meals and exercise regularly. According to the National Institute of Health, complications from obesity are now the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Some of us have to work harder than others at fighting this chronic disease, but the payoff is very rewarding.
• Do not smoke. The leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. are side effects from smoking. Smoking can be a particularly hard habit to kick, but assistance is available to those who want it.
• Insist that you and your passengers buckle up every time you get in a vehicle. This can be a life or death decision. The use of seat belts reduces the risk of fatality in serious crashes by over 50 percent. The motor vehicle fatality rate has been steadily declining since 2005, in part due to the higher compliance rate of wearing seat belts.
• Don’t drink and drive, or ride with a driver who has been drinking. The number of fatalities involving a legally intoxicated driver has dropped almost 40 percent in the past 10 years, but with 9,878 people killed on our nation’s highways in 2011 because of drunken driving, there is still much room for improvement.
• Don’t text and drive. Although the nation’s accident fatality rate has been steadily declining over the past 10 years, there was a 9 percent increase in 2012. The reason for this is multifaceted, but among the biggest reason is an increase in distracted driving. In 2011, 23 percent of car crashes involved at least one of the drivers using a cell phone at the time of the crash. An average of 11 deaths every day occur on our nation’s highways because of texting while driving. According to a study conducted by BMW USA, texting while driving reduces reaction time as much as a blood alcohol level of .08 percent.
• While driving remain alert for children playing, cyclists, runners and walkers.
• If you are a cyclist, take steps to be highly visible and ride only during daylight hours. Obey all traffic laws and wear a helmet.
• Don’t abuse your body through addictions. Addictive behaviors may momentarily numb the pain, but will cause a multitude of other problems.
• Check your smoke detectors and make sure they are working properly. Install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas.
Each one of us is precious, unique and irreplaceable. Invest the time and effort in your health and well-being not only for you, but for the sake of those who love you. Take care of yourself and treasure the gift of life.
Lee Anne Grace is an elementary music teacher for Tupelo Public Schools. After reaching a weight of almost 300 pounds and failing at numerous diets for over 25 years, she has been successful at losing weight and maintaining her weight loss for three years.