August 30, 2023

Is Cheating Second Nature?

Rick Lee
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We all face temptations in life that test our integrity, especially when it comes to our health. Let's dive into a subject that might be a little uncomfortable, but incredibly important.

The Ubiquity of Cheating:

A staggering 70% of seniors have at least one chronic condition. Since it's impractical to visit your doctor every day to monitor your health, self-management has become crucial in warding off more serious complications. In Dan Ariely's thought-provoking book, "The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty," we're reminded that cheating is almost as old as humanity itself. Besides cheating in self-monitoring of our health, we're surrounded by a litany of other examples: Lance Armstrong, Tanya Harding, Sam Bankman-Fried, Bernie Madoff, and even Tiger Woods cheating on his wife. And let's not forget the little white lies we all tell: "I've been very good about sticking to my diet."

As Ariely astutely notes, a tendency to cheat exists in many of us. This behavior manifests in various ways—on the golf course, in expense reports, when recounting stories, and even when fudging IRS returns. What's more, many rationalize their cheating; for example, "I only cut in line because everyone else was doing it." Yet, often the person most harmed by cheating is the individual themselves.

When Cheating is Self-Harm:

There are essentially two kinds of cheating: taking advantage of others and shortchanging yourself. Since my blog often focuses on self-care and living a healthier lifestyle, let's examine high blood pressure and weight gain. These are two glaring indicators of potential self-inflicted harm where cheating can make things worse. Regular monitoring of BP and weight is essential for preventive intervention.

Monitoring your blood pressure can be particularly susceptible to cheating or misrepresentation. More than one in three seniors suffers from high blood pressure. Relying solely on doctor's office readings is an unreliable method for assessing hypertension. It's too infrequent to establish a trend, and external factors like traffic stress or excessive coffee consumption can skew the results.

Home Blood Pressure Do’s and Don'ts

Home testing provides more reliable readings and can help you avoid unnecessary medication. To get accurate results, consider the following tips:

  • Place the arm cuff just above your elbow.
  • Take several deep breaths before testing.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor.
  • Test at the same time each day.
  • Remain still and quiet while taking the reading.
  • Take two or three readings, each a minute or two apart, and then calculate the average.

Often, these steps aren't followed when you're rushed at a doctor's appointment, but adhering to them at home will yield more reliable results.

On the flip side, fudging weight measurements is another form of self-cheating. Guilty as charged! Every other day, I run five miles before breakfast. This essentially means I fast from 7 PM until 8 AM—over 12 hours. Naturally, recording my weight at this time is quite satisfying but also misleading. It's the lowest it will be all day.

The True Cost of Cheating:

When all is said and done who is really getting cheated when my weight is under-reported?  “None other than I,” said the Scarecrow.  If I pack on some pounds and decide to weigh only when I can expect a good outcome, I’m cheating myself.  By telling the world I ONLY weigh 215, I’m rejecting the notion that I must take better care of myself.  When my doctor informs me that I need a knee replacement because my poor little knee can no longer carry my formidable girth on a daily basis, my cheating has caught up with me.  Then my hips go.  Then my heart.  

You've likely seen similar scenarios in your own family. Ultimately, those who falsify their health data cheat themselves out of a longer, disease-free life. They miss out on cherished experiences like lifting grandchildren, climbing the Great Wall of China, or even a simple after-dinner walk with the dog.

I won't pass judgment on anyone's financial indiscretions or whether they pick up after their pets, but here's the final word: If you aim to live a healthy life well into your golden years, cheating simply doesn't pay off.

So, let's challenge ourselves to be honest, especially when it comes to our health. After all, the person you're most accountable to is yourself.

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