Sunday, February 17, 2008

Build Your Health Net Worth, Business and the Body, Part 1

(Part 1 of 3 in a Series of Business Principles Applied to Personal Health Status)

Health is more important than money, but money gets more attention in this world. As I’m spending hours to prepare my financial statements and tax records, it occurs to me that this process of taking stock of assets and liabilities can be applied to the realm of wellbeing.

Logic rarely rules matters of health. Instead our fitness behaviors tend to fluctuate like blood sugar, riding on emotional waves of whether we feel like exercising or eating healthy or taking care of ourselves at all. You can control the waves and build your personal health net worth with the good sense of health accounting.

Net worth equals assets minus liabilities. Obviously, you want to expand your health assets and reduce the liabilities. In the financial world, assets include money, real estate, and investments. In terms of health, your assets include your genes and health factors, including lung capacity, bone density, muscle strength, structural alignment, vitamin reserves, and liver health—the type of things your doctor would measure in a physical exam. If your test results aren’t good, these same items turn into health liabilities: high blood pressure or cholesterol and low bone density or lung capacity. Think of liabilities as risks, such as clogged arteries, obesity, and smoking.

Our medical system focuses on finding and changing health liabilities, often with prescription medication as the treatment. Rarely does this turn a liability into an asset though. It’s frequently just an adjustment that makes the health books look balanced.

Creating real assets takes effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard work.

How do you lower blood pressure, increase bone density, and improve structural alignment? It’s no surprise that the answer is being physically active. Not necessarily jogging or doing step aerobics, but keeping your body moving at a moderate level on a regular basis.

Here’s another example. How do you lower LDL cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce liver toxicity? If you eliminate trans fats from your diet, such as shortening and partially hydrogenated oils used in many cookies and crackers, you will tip the scales in favor of assets on all three accounts.

(As an interesting aside, the number one health tip on the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease’s web page is to avoid taking unnecessary medications,

When you work toward improving your health, one positive action will produce multiple good results, because health behavior affects many assets at once. It’s as though you are buying a piece of property that will create positive cash flow from the start. Add more assets to the portfolio and you’ll eventually become a health tycoon.

Check in on Wednesday as we evaluate the Return on Investment of several health activities.

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