Much of the conversation regarding health care in our country revolves around cost and what the government’s responsibility is towards the citizens in providing health care. Sprinkled throughout are bits about greedy doctors, litigious lawyers, and rich taxpayers. Very little is said about the role that you and I play in maintaining our health. We are looked at as helpless consumers, too immature to do or understand simple things to keep ourselves healthy. If we are unwilling to take even the most basic of steps to maintain our health, how we can we castigate doctors and government for not doing enough to help us? Just as I look to Hellenismos for inspiration on how to manage my finances, I’ve also found wisdom in how to be an active partner in maintaining my health.
In Hellenismos there are several gods that attend to health and wellness because it is such a complex and interconnected issue. Apollon could bring plagues or avert them. Young men spent hours at the gymnasia, exercising as a devotional offering to Apollon, honing the body along with the intellect. Healer-priests and physician descendants of Asclepios, such as Hippocrates of the temple at Cos, used the arts of surgery, medicine, prayer, dreams, diet, mineral baths, and songs to heal patients. Asclepiops’ temples were the first hospitals. I won’t name all of Asclepios’ divine children, but Hygeia was often worshiped along side Her father. Hygeia helped patients with prevention of sickness and the continuation of sound physical and mental health. She encouraged good sanitation practices.
Basic sanitation, surgery, preventative care, diet, medicines, mental health, exercise, prayer and divine intercession, public health initiatives, and what we call alternative medicine are related and interconnected through Apollon’s divine family. Government, Doctors and Healer Priests, and Citizens all had roles they were expected to play. Back then, more of the burden was shouldered by individual citizens than by doctors or the government. Today, almost none of the burden lays with the citizen. Perhaps it’s time to combine the best of the old with the best of the new?
Apollonian Medicine: Immunizations and Exercise
Immunization: The government should offer free immunizations to all citizens. Health professionals can either be employed or reimbursed by the government to administer the immunization. Citizens have a responsibility to get the immunization.
Exercise: This, along with diet, is the number 1 area that Americans need to work on to improve their health and it’s not something that the government or doctors bear much responsibility for. It’s all on us. Even walking for 15 minutes just 3 days a week can yield remarkable benefits and costs us nothing. How many of us do even that little bit to manage our health? How can we ask others – such as the government, fellow taxpayers, and health care professionals – to spend time, money, and skill to help us when we show almost no desire to help ourselves. As Nick said in a comment to my previous post about health care, “healthy eating and frequent exercise cost less, and do more good, [than] heart transplants.”
Seven out of ten Americans don’t exercise regularly. We know the benefits of regular exercise to both our physical and mental health we just don’t do it. To name a few of those benefits:
- Reduces risk of heart disease by 27 percent to 41 percent
- Active people can expect an additional 12.7 years of healthy life
- You can cut your risk of getting Diabetes in half with exercise or, if you already have it, it can reduce the negative effects of the disease.
- Fights depression and anxiety
- It can improve both your memory and your sex life
Lack of regular exercise not only hurts our health, it hurts our pocketbooks. Physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity were associated with 23% of health plan health care charges and 27% of national health care charges. In 2000 an estimated $117 billion in health care spending in the USA was due to inactivity and obesity. To bring it to a personal level, the average active 75 year old female with no physical limitations spends just over $1900 per year on health care costs. The average inactive 75 year old female with no physical limitations spends just over $3,200 per year on health care costs. That’s a difference of $1300 per person per year.
I have a confession to make. I hate to exercise. After I got out of the military I swore that the only way I would ever run again would be if someone was chasing me with a knife. But I do stay active. I see it as part of my duty to myself, my family, to my community, and to the Gods to stay fit. Most every morning, I do 12 Sun Salutations while chanting prayers to Helios. That’s not a huge effort in time or energy, but it it does the job. Like my coreligionists from long ago, I dedicate this exercise as a devotional offering. Also like them, reciprocation plays a large role in how I live. I give so that I may receive. I receive improved mental health from some quiet, meditative time before the chaos of the day starts along with improved physical health. I certainly receive more than I give. But first, I have to be willing to give. We all have to be willing to give.
Hail Apollon Akesios!
Next blog post: Asclepios Medicine – Combining Traditional and Alternative medicine with a spiritual component.