It’s always good to talk to people who have come through major health issues like heart attacks or cancer and have taken the bull by the horns and made life style changes that will likely add years to their lives and a bonus of quality to go with it.

Then there are those who make the life style changes and assume that they are now bomb proof and have elevated their health profile to the point of not needing medical checkups. I shared in a post some time ago about a man who had colon cancer, at the time, 14 years prior to our speaking. They did a surgical resection of about 12 inches, chemo and radiation. When I spoke to him he had never been back to the oncologist and had not had a colonoscopy since the end of treatment.

More recently I was talking to man who had suffered a heart attack about 5 years ago. He was very quick to point out that the whole thing had changed his life. He now ate the right things and had become a runner, running 8-10 miles a day and occasionally participating in marathons. When I asked him when his most recent stress test was, his answer was today. He painted a picture for himself that by running every day and surviving, he had moved beyond the need to have a medically monitored, imaged stress test as part of a post cardiac event followup.

This logic won’t win any points with life insurance underwriters since they jump all over the obvious given a chance. Yes, that 8 mile run is a stress test but it doesn’t tell you anything about potential new blockage that may be building. So, surviving his stress test may in fact mean that he is completely healthy and will never have a problem again. It might also mean that, by ignoring the medical facts that caused the first heart attack, he is just one 8 mile run away from the 2nd heart attack.

Being a runner (jogger/waddler) and always being fascinated by the guys that could really run fast, I have noticed over the years that those distance runners that have heart attacks while running don’t seem to have a very high survival rate. I’m just guessing, but I wonder if that has something to do with the attack happening when your heart is pumping hard to start with. Seems to this layman that it ought to cause more damage than if you are, say, sitting down with an average resting heart rate.

Bottom line. Lifestyle changes are to be praised. I always admire someone who has seized their life back by kicking obesity or diabetes or cancer. But life style changes should always be in combination with prudent medical followup. Underwriters will insist on it and you will thank yourself. If you find that you are right on track, it’s a great chance to share that with others and help them make healthy changes. If you find out something is sneaking back up on you, you just avoided ending a run in an ambulance.