Lifestyle role models
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Safety for all requires many components of our environment to be linked together in ways that do not produce harm. In regard to many tragedies, including the tragedy in Connecticut, it is the link between mental health and the use of devices that can harm others. In the ongoing discussions, one factor has not been adequately brought forth. When does healthy aging begin?
Healthy aging, both mental and physical, begins when one is a fetus. First, high levels of maternal stress during pregnancy, and, second, physical, mental or sexual abuse of children increase susceptibility to lifelong alterations of mental and physical health. We need to direct more attention to these early times of life to reduce the risk of mental and physical disease during the aging process. Certainly not the most easy aspects of life to alter, but necessary.
If we wait until the damage is done to mental health and then try to fix it with programs for teenagers and adults, we will often have been too late. Preventive medicine is more than colonoscopy and immunization. It has to include paying attention to reducing stress during pregnancy, eliminating abuse and having all responsible adults serve as healthy lifestyle role models for those they love and who love them.
Remember, children do not know right from wrong; they learn from the meaningful role models in their lives. We all have the responsibility to engage in lifestyle behaviors that will enhance the quality of health of our children and grandchildren.
BRUCE S. RABIN, M.D., Ph.D.
First Published January 3, 2013 12:00 am