The greatest risks to your health are specific to you as an individual. This is why doctors ask about your family history and why they collect as much information as possible, from height to weight to blood pressure. Your physician is trying to do what is best based on your individualized risk factors. Yet no doctor will ever have as much insight into your health as you can accumulate. Your genes, environment, and choices all make unique contributions. Some elements work against you, while others fight back and help. In this constant tug of war, knowledge is your best ally.
Pay close attention
Take, for example, my personal condition. Because I was born with a genetic mutation that creates an unusually high risk for cancerous growth, I have a clear understanding of the greatest threats to my health. Armed with this information, I pay close attention to anything related to these vulnerabilities. When I notice a story in the news about something that increases or decreases the odds of kidney cancer, for example, I dig deeper. Several years ago, I saw a headline about a large study that found a relationship between eating fatty fish like salmon and reduction in kidney cancer.
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When I tracked down the full report from this study, I discovered that eating just one serving of fatty fish per week was associated with a 44 percent reduction in risk of kidney cancer. The study participants who consumed a serving of fish per week for a decade had a 74 percent decrease in cancer rates. After reading this research, I figured it would not hurt to eat more fatty fish, as long as I selected fish with low mercury levels.