How to Take Charge of Your Health

John Glenn at age 77 wanted to fly again in space and he did. Former President George H. Bush celebrated his 80th birthday in June 2004 by parachuting twice 13,000ft out of a plane. Bush's message "Get out and do something. Don't just sit around watching TV!" So what is it you always wanted to do? Now is your chance if you take charge of your health.

Many of us worry about having the resources to live out our years. We save and seek advice from financial brokers about how to invest the money we earn. But few of us spend as much effort to similarly assess our health, to take precautions to remain healthy, active and independent for as long as we live.

I have seen friends and relatives thrown in the depths of depression at the sight of their first grey hair or the thought of approaching a 40th or 50th birthday. For most any thoughts of health are shelved after the party is over. But whether you turn 25 or 85 is there a better time than now to begin checking out your health assets, just as you do your financial assets?

The significance of people taking age milestones seriously only hit me after I retired from NASA. I now had the time to think through the broad impact of what I had learned from space research. I knew that I held little recognized knowledge about how to hold onto vibrant good health. My mission and responsibility then became clear. It is to help you, whatever your age, be healthy and age well by sharing with you knowledge, experience and low-cost readily available solutions.

My experiences have brought me greater insight into why some enjoy vibrant aging whereas those around them do not. And why many individuals, even children, now suffer from illnesses that only old people used to get. From the thousands I have talked to over the years, this is what I have learned:
• More than death, you are worried about pain and suffering
• You want to keep your brain working well
• You want to remain healthy and independent as long as you live - you do not want to live out your years in a nursing home
• You want to have fun, feel energized and enjoy life, love and the pursuit of happiness

So what are the odds of success? It is a fact that people are living longer. At 50, you may have as much as another 50 years ahead of you. You have the chance to do it right and decide to adopt better health habits now. Clearly staying alive and drifting through the rest of your years watching TV is wasteful. A new approach is needed.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
People asked you that question when you were a child. They were not expecting you to think much further than 30. Use your second chance as your landmark to begin your Health Asset Plan. Just as you started a financial portfolio, with savings habits and investments intended to see you through life, it is time to start taking a good hard look at your health habits. Are you saving, squandering or going into debt?

I know that’s a lot to figure out, and you may not have an answer for yourself just yet. But help is on the way.

The plan

Living longer comes with a new sense of freedom. Your early life was spent mostly doing what you thought others told you or wanted you to do. Your children may have grown up or left the nest. Your responsibilities may be changing. But beware. This is not a call to revolt. This is about taking stock and taking action – taking responsibility for your health.

Step 1. Become Aware. Step back from where you are and what you’re doing – and look at yourself.  Are you doing what you want to do? Are you living how you want to live? Do you have the ability to do the things you want to do, and if so, why aren’t you doing those things? 
Step 2. Decide to be Healthy. If you don’t have the ability to do the things you want to do, are you willing to begin taking action now to eventually get to that point? It is not enough to know and plan. You need to take charge of building your Health Assets step at a time.
Step 3. Get Started. Assess. Whatever your age, get started today by completing our free Health Assets self-assessment. You can get it by signing up for our Newsletter. When you have completed it, go back and re-read the questionnaire as well as your answers. Where are your strengths and what needs work?
Step 4. Develop your Personal Health Investment Plan. You can do whatever it is you want to do. You just have to first, know what you want, and secondly, know how to get it. If you don’t know how to get it, find out how by doing research, reading, asking questions, taking initiative, asking more questions, and learning as much as you can.
Step 5. Set Milestones. Establish Intermediate Objectives. Break it down to manageable goals. Visualize yourself. How do you see yourself in 20 years?
Step 6. Take Action. Focus your attention on one item that needs work. Find solutions. Take up meditation to relieve stress. Take a step at a time and work on it until it becomes a new health habit. Or seek help and guidance through personal health coaching.
Step 7. Check your progress by completing the self-assessment questionnaire once more. What a difference!!
Step 8. Reward yourself and Celebrate.

It does no good to be financially independent in your old age, in fact at any age, if you are not physically and mentally independent enough to enjoy it. Asked about what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered, "Man.... Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

On your journey toward your desired lifestyle, many things will try and hold you back. Don’t let yourself be one of them.

Leave your comments, enter the conversation. We are all in this together.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?


  1. This is the Pep Talk so many of us need to hear frequently! Thank you so much, Dr. Joan!

  2. Great advice, Joan. Thanks. I love the personal finance analogy.

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