Last week, I had an appointment with my family physician to talk about prostate health. Yes, I know, this is a Huntington’s disease (HD) column. Why am I bringing up my prostate? Come to think of it, this probably fits into the “too much information” category, but stay with me!
Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death for men over 50 in many parts of the world. Healthcare professionals often suggest that men be proactive in their prostate health and begin having physical exams and bloodwork done every couple of years to monitor for disease. This monitoring can be beneficial when it comes to identifying changes over time and diagnosing disease at an early stage.
Talking with my doctor about prostate disease prevention was educational and demonstrated to me how far I’ve come in my way of thinking about Huntington’s disease. In the months following my positive HD genetic predictive testing, I likely would have said something like this about monitoring the health of my prostate:
“Why should I even care about this when I’m already gene-positive for Huntington’s disease? I’m likely going to die young from that anyway, aren’t I?”
Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?:
“Who cares if I exercise? What does it matter if I start smoking again? Enjoying a few beers after work every day isn’t going to hurt me, I already have HD!”
The reality is, it could matter.
It’s true, we already know a great deal about Huntington’s disease. We know the gene. We understand the areas of the brain the condition attacks the most. We have a clear grasp of the signs and symptoms associated with HD. We have even learned that exercise may play a role in delaying symptom onset.
But there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe small amounts of alcohol are detrimental to the well-being of our HD brains. Perhaps a well-balanced diet is beneficial in ways we don’t fully understand at this point. We are learning quickly, but who knows?
Preventive healthcare means being proactive in your own well-being and taking steps to make healthy lifestyle decisions now, in hopes that illness and disease can be avoided or limited in the future. In theory, this sounds simple and straightforward. We all know, however, that in real life, it isn’t always easy. I think of my frequent fast-food trips when I’m on the road for work. And my excessive caffeine intake. Oh, and my love for a fine potato chip.
The title of this column sums it up: Just because there’s some rust in the genetic code doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest of the vehicle. Yes, if you have the gene mutation that leads to Huntington’s disease, the way things currently stand, you can expect to develop HD at some point in your life. But this is changing! Science is working! There are potential disease-delaying treatments undergoing clinical trials right now as you read these words. I’ve heard smart people at conferences say something like this:
“There has been no better time to be living at risk for HD than today. We are so close to an effective treatment!”
The time has never been better for those of us living at risk for Huntington’s disease, or for gene-positive individuals, to practice a healthy lifestyle and take control. Can you believe that? We have some control when it comes to HD? How often do we feel that we have no control?
Take control of your Huntington’s journey
The point of this column isn’t to lecture Huntington’s disease gene-positive or at-risk folks about how to live your lives. It’s about empowering you to take control of your own HD journey. Keep yourself strong. Keep yourself healthy. Your brain needs to be prepared to take on new treatment options when they come available. You need to be an ideal candidate for clinical studies as they begin recruitment.
Preventive health is a key factor in your empowerment. You can exercise three times per week! You can live in a heart-healthy manner! You can eat well-balanced meals and follow the food guides! It’s not easy, but you can. I believe in you.
Don’t ignore the rest of your vehicle because of a little rust, especially with so many scientific advances happening all around us.
Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.