Consider Your Body Your Greatest Asset

Physician's Money Digest, January31 2005, Volume 12, Issue 2

It's my policy to sit down for a minute and relaxat least once while I'm making hospital rounds.I have two choices. I can sit down at one of thenurse's stations and drink stale coffee and eatstale cookies. However, every time I do this, one of thenurses sees that I am unoccupied and nails me for freemedical advice. My second choice is to sit down in thesurgeon's lounge. Since the hospital realized that thesurgical department is the only department thatmakes them money, they've upgraded the free goodiesin the lounge.

Today, I was comfortably seated in an overstuffedchair drinking gourmet coffee and eating cheeseblintzes when I noticed my friend Dr. Peter Jackapproaching. Dr. Jack is a great surgeon who worksvery hard, but always seems to be in financial trouble.Since he's been out sick for 4 weeks, I hadn't seen himin a while. I knew he probably spent the whole timesurfing the Internet for money management tips andworrying about how he was going to make do withoutthe income he was missing while being home sick.

Dr. Jack: Hi, old buddy, what's happening? I likedyour last article. What words of wisdom can you giveme today? I'm desperate.

Ever the Sherlock Holmes, I inspected my friend

carefully. He was holding a large plate of toasted

cheese sandwiches, his perennial favorite. He had put

on a few pounds since I last saw him. In fact, he was

getting quite fat. I decided to be blunt with him.

Dr. Constan: Has it ever occurred to you, Jack,that your health could very possibly be negatively in-fluencing your finances?

Dr. Jack: Why, no, why would you say that?

Dr. Constan: You just lost 4 weeks of incomebecause you had your gallbladder removed, right?

Dr. Jack: Sure.

Dr. Constan: And you know that gallbladder diseaseis common in those who overeat fatty foods, right?

Dr. Jack: Sure.

Dr. Constan: Right now, you're carrying a plate oftoasted cheese sandwiches, which are each worth 360calories, and a frappaccino gourmet coffee, which contains320 calories. You've stopped sitting in the lazy-boychair because your expanding derrie`re only fits in thewider couch. Do you see a connection between bad eatinghabits and your precarious state of health, which, asyou well know, resulted in weeks of lost income?

Dr. Jack: There you go again, Lou; you're harping onthose lifestyle issues family doctors are so fond of. Wesurgeons believe that if you can't cut it, you can't cure it.

Dr. Constan: Sure, but remember the surgery youhad last year because of the increased weight on yourtender metatarsal heads or the back strain you had theyear before? You lost income during both incidencesbecause you had to cancel your surgery schedule ortake on fewer cases. You honestly can't improve yourinvestment performance until you improve yourincome, and you can't improve your income until youimprove your health.

Dr. Jack: So, what do you recommend?

Dr. Constan: Let's start with some training on propereating. Since you don't like reading diet books, consultwith one of the dieticians or join a diet group suchas Weight Watchers. Our hospital also has a diet programfor the staff; it's called Lean on Me. You couldsign up with them. Finally, stop eating the stuff the hospitaland drug reps give us just because it's free. Spend afew bucks in the cafeteria on a nice, refreshing salad.

Dr. Jack: I'm not sure I want to diet. Couldn't Ijust increase my activity?

Dr. Constan: How? You spend all your time in thehospital or at the office. And exercise alone rarely helps.

Dr. Jack: I've got a treadmill in my basement. Icould get on it after dinner.

Dr. Constan: Since your family wants to see youwhen you get home at night, here's what you need todo: Get rid of that old treadmill and buy yourself anew, quiet, modern model that fits in the family-room.Then you can exercise and still be with your family.It'll cost you, but you have to spend money to makemoney. And while you're at it, consult with the trainerat the gym. He'll tell you what you need to do toget in shape.

Dr. Jack: I'll get right on it. Now, could you giveme some good investment tips?

Dr. Constan: Hold your horses, Jack; there's more.When is the last time you had a checkup? You knowthere's such a thing as preventable illness, right? Well,you can't prevent an illness unless you spend sometime and money on preventive measures. Didn't yourfather and grandfather have colon cancer? Have youhad a colonoscopy yet?

Dr. Jack: Nope, my insurance company said it's ascreening test and isn't covered.

Dr. Constan: Do you remember my friend whospoke at the Medical Society meeting last year—thebald man with a beard and funny glasses? He talkedabout being "penny-wise and pound-foolish"andhow "a stitch in time saves nine."You can't afford tolet your insurance company decide which tests youneed to preserve your health.

Dr. Jack: Who can keep track of all those screeningtests? They change every year.

Dr. Constan: You don't have to know everything;you just need to know who to ask. When was the lasttime you saw your doctor? Your doctor will do thenecessary exams and order the necessary x-rays andlab tests. Come to think of it, it will probably cost youless to meet with the doctor than it will to meet withthe trainer from the gym.

Dr. Jack: This is more than I wanted to know. I'dlike an easy fix for my fiscal woes.

Dr. Constan: A simple way to think about all ofthis is to consider your body an asset. When you takecare of it, you have more energy, you can work harder,and your work is more efficient. Reading your labreport is the same as reading your financial statement.Buying that treadmill, paying $12 to Weight Watchers,and consulting with your doctor will give youreturns on your investments the same way as yourstocks do when the prices go up.

Dr. Jack: Boy, Lou, you've given me a lot to thinkabout. Where should I start?

Dr. Constan: You can start by dumping those cheesesandwiches in the round file. You've got 24 minutesbefore your next surgery? Follow me to the cafeteriaand I'll help you pick out a nice salad. I'm hungrymyself, and if I go with a surgeon, I can skip to the frontof the line. I'm fond of their Mediterranean shrimpsalad with the extra almonds and dried cherries. It'sdelicious, quite filling, and healthy.

a family practice physician in

Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the Saginaw County

Medical Society Bulletin and Michigan Family

Practice. He welcomes questions or comments at

3350 Shattuck Road, Saginaw, MI 48603; 989-792-1899; or louisconstan@hotmail.com.

Louis L. Constan,