The Healthy Executive

Do You Maintain Your Car Better Than Your Body?

Reading time: 3.0 minutes (1800 words @ 600 wpm[1])

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how do I maintain me?

  • Are you a car buff but a health duff? The evidence may surprise you.
  • Preventing car and health problems is eight times cheaper than fixing them.
  • Be your own mechanic using this 14-point body tuneup

Have you ever looked at your car manual? There are often two maintenance schedules: One for normal conditions and one for harsh conditions.

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Is this in the owners manual?

The schedule designed for cars operating in harsh conditions involves more frequent tune-ups, oil changes, and preventative diagnostic exams. Most people follow these schedules for their autos faithfully; why do we refuse to maintain our personal health?

Perhaps the reason is cost. The average cost of a car in 2015 is $33,560 and we want to maintain our investment. In contrast, our bodies are free and perhaps as result we take them for granted (and if you are in the 18–29 demographic you are a Young Invincible).

Not mention that cars are fast and fun, while health seems slow and boring in comparison.

Want proof? More than 80 percent of men could remember the make and model of their first set of wheels, but only 54 percent could remember the last time they went to the doctor for a check-up (according to this survey).

More proof? Drivers score 76 out of 100 on performing routine car maintenance. In contrast, each year millions of people die preventable deaths. Studies show that 47 out of 100 deaths in the United States are due to preventable diseases and behaviors.

But there is one key difference. You can always buy, rent or lease another car. But you only have one body.

Which Are You?

fanatic or pragmatic?

fanatic or pragmatic?

The world can be divided into 2 kinds of car guys (or ladies):

  • Utility transport types: want to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ reliably.
  • Car fanatics: read Car & Driver and watch Top Gear religiously.

These types can be further classified into:

  • Those who wait to fix things when they break.
  • Those who can’t wait to rotate their tires (again).

Similarly, viewpoints on health might be classified as follows:

  • Pragmatics: Those who want to be ‘healthy enough, but no more’.
  • Fanatics: Those who go to the gym 9 times a week and weigh their food.
  • Fix-it’s: Those who want their doctor to fix things when they break.
  • Preventers: Those who reasonably want to prevent preventable diseases.

Which particular car or health camp you fall into is of course a completely personal matter.

That said, there are significant differences in the short-term versus long-term costs required to keep our cars and bodies in good working order.

Does Maintenance Have A Better ROI Than Repair?

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maintain or die

Pay now or pay later? Is an ounce of prevention really worth a pound of cure? What’s the return on investment (ROI) of maintenance versus repair? Let’s look at how this applies to our cars and our health.

  • The total cost of maintaining a car is $1,000+. Compare that to the total cost of not maintaining a car which is $8,000+ according to AutoMD.com data from January 2014.
  • The cost for accidents resulting from unperformed vehicle maintenance tops $2 billion a year, according to a 2004 study by the Car Care Council.
  • “If you don’t maintain your car, you’re taking a vehicle that might have been driven for 200,000 miles over its life, and you’re knocking it down to maybe 150,000 miles,” says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com
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fix that spare tire!

What about maintaining health instead of fixing it?

  • Every minute of exercise adds seven minutes (or more) to your lifespan and increases your quality of life according to this 2013 summary of studies.
  • Health-related productivity losses account for 77% of all employee productivity losses according to this study of 20,144 employees by Ray Merrill and associates.
  • Repairing your body is expensive: $324,000 for open heart surgery according to Investopedia, and the average lifetime cost of a stroke is $100,000 for each survivor according to the American Stroke Association. The typical new cancer drug coming on the market a decade ago cost about $4,500 per month (in 2012 dollars); since 2010 the median price has been around $10,000. Two of the new cancer drugs cost more than $35,000 each per month of treatment according to the NY Times.
  • Each year, millions of people die preventable deaths. Studies show that about half of all deaths in the United States are due to preventable behaviors and exposures. Leading causes included cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, unintentional injuries, diabetes, and certain infectious diseases. This same study estimates that 400,000 people die each year in the United States due to poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.[2]

Whether it’s cars or health, the best repair is the one you never have. The best way to prevent expensive repairs is to maintain your car and body.

What Your Car And Body Have In Common

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bodies and cars are alike

You’re going on a 500-mile trip. You only put $10 worth of diesel into your gas tank and didn’t check the oil or water. What are the odds that your car could complete the trip?

Your body is a sophisticated and complex series of interdependent systems and of course no analogy can truly do it justice. Nevertheless, even a simplistic comparison to a car can yield useful insights on how to operate it optimally.

Car-Body Comparison
Car System Body Equivalent
Idiot Lights Aches & Pains
Mechanic Doctor
Fuel Food
Gas Tank Stomach
Fuel Additives Supplements
Engine Heart
Redline RPM Stress
Air Filter Lungs
Oil Filter Liver
Timing Belt Priorities
Transmission Muscles
Parking Brake Sitting
Coolant Circulation
Tires Feet

Thanks to hybrid and electric cars, the car-body analogy of the future will necessarily look different than the one just presented. Fans of the latest car technology might be interested in the Tesla Drive for Men’s Health to increase awareness of men’s health issues and to encourage men to make their health a priority.

Be Your Own Mechanic: A 14-point Body Tuneup

be your own mechanic

be your own mechanic

Ok, so maybe it’s true our bodies share some similarities with cars, and we now understand that maintenance is cheaper (and smarter) than major repairs. With that in mind, here is a 14-point tune-up to maintain your body in great running condition.

  1. Check your idiot lights: Are you experiencing any warning signs about your health? Are you overweight? Tired all the time? Out of breath performing simple tasks? Extended headache? Sudden rash? If so, take the following step.
  2. See your mechanic: Have you seen your doctor in the last 3 years? Blood tests for cholesterol, fasting blood sugar, kidney and liver function, and a urinalysis will give a broad picture of general health. A physical exam by the doctor will include a review of family health history and, based on that, certain early screening tests might be considered.
  3. Read your owner’s manual: Following the five Basic Maintenance Steps outlined in this manual should result in years of trouble-free body operations. At the very least do an online Health Risk Assesment (registration required).
  4. Use higher octane fuel: Food is very much the most basic tool in preventive health care. At a minimum observe these nutrition basics from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Check your oil filter: Excess amounts of junk food and can cause liver damage in just one month, scientists claim. In addition to cirrhosis, 3 drinks of alcohol a day has been clearly linked to liver cancer as well.
  6. Lower your RPMs: A faster running engine wears out sooner. Manage your stress levels by sleeping better and moving more frequently. Consider meditation or a yoga class.
  7. Clean out your garage: You can’t eat what you don’t have. Audit your pantry for unhealthy foods and consider donating them to a food bank. If stress-eating is an issue, consider these 33 countermeasures.
  8. Fuel additives: The best source of essential nutrients is from natural foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Counter to the decades-old conventional wisdom, massive amounts of research demonstrate that supplemental vitamins are not required.
  9. check your air filter

    check your air filter

    Check your air filter: However bad you thought smoking was, it’s even worse. In addition to the well-known hazards of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, chronic lung disease and stroke, the latest research finds that smoking is linked to significantly increased risks of infection, kidney disease, intestinal disease caused by inadequate blood flow, and heart and lung ailments not previously attributed to tobacco. The jury is still out on e-cigarettes.

  10. Take off the parking brake: Too much sitting (as distinct from too little exercise) has been linked to increased premature mortality risk. Take a 5–10 standing or walking break for every 60 minutes of TV viewing, computer and game-console use, workplace sitting, or time spent in automobiles.
  11. Timing belt replacement: The most common excuse for not exercising? “No time”.  New research revealed on a BBC TV Horizon programme, suggests it is possible to improve some measures of fitness with just 3 minutes of exercise a week. Consider shifting your mindset and habits plus High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
  12. Check your coolant system: Water assists your circulatory functions. It alleviates fluid retention and converts fat into energy. It also helps rid the body of toxins and waste, and increases energy levels. Optimal body hydration is a surprisingly complex topic. But a comprehensive review of research papers does indicate that even mild dehydration of 2–2.6% can impair physical and mental performance.[3]
  13. Put your transmission in Drive: Training for a 5K run, a charity walkathon, or an office weight loss challenge is a great way to boost your motivation and keep focused fitness. Surprisingly, 30 minutes a day of exercise is more beneficial than 60 minutes a day for weight loss accord to this WebMD study.
  14. Check and rotate your tires: Running shoes can wear out in 300–500 miles (5 months for average runners) and increase your risk of overuse injuries. Check this guide to see if you are due for a new pair.

I hope you found this article useful, and would appreciate it if you commented below with your thoughts and suggestions.


Footnotes:

  1. Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?, Forbes  ↩
  2. Mokdad, A. H., Marks, J. S., Stroup, D. F., & Gerberding, J. L. (2004). Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. Journal of the American Medical Association,291(10), 1238–1245.  ↩
  3. AMA Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition reviews. 2010;68(8):439–458. doi:10.1111/j.1753–4887.2010.00304.x.  ↩
  4. Jeff’s credentials on LinkedIn here and Facebook here.  ↩

photo credits: Crime Scene (conduit), Pirate Car, Hot Sport, and Grandpa via freeimages (license), Body Shop via photopin (license), Stock Photo ID: 7742764 via ShutterStock (license), Dave Wild pic via flickr Creative Commons (license).

Also published on Medium.

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