Family Ties: A Key to Healthy Living
By Dale Peterson, MD – Building Health
Family is the major focus of my life. In August my wife, Rosalie, and I will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. We have two wonderful daughters, two terrific sons-in-law, and five delightful granddaughters. The grandchildren range in age from 6 months to 11 years. One family lives only a few miles from our home and the other is only an hour away. Happiness, it has been said, is having grandchildren fighting over your lap. I wholeheartedly agree. In a very real sense I continue to practice family medicine. Whenever one of the grandchildren is hurt or becomes ill (which is a rare occurrence), their immediate response is “I need to go see grandpa. He can fix it.”
Over the years I have observed that family ties are one of the keys to healthy living. In a world filled with danger and uncertainty the unconditional love that is present in most families provides stability and comfort. If it were not for the support of family members most of us would have difficulty coping with the stresses of life.
Unfortunately, the traditional family has been under assault for decades. The decision of the U.S. Justice Department to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in February is the latest indicator that the institution of the family, which has been at the core of our existence for millennia, is in grave danger.
The percentage of children living in two parent families fell from 85 % in 1970 to 69 % in 2000. Today more than a quarter of children live with a single parent, usually their mother although the percentage of children who are being raised by a single father has doubled in the last two decades. In 1960 only 5.3 % of infants were born to unwed mothers. By 2000 a third of babies in the United States were born to single women. The challenge is compounded by a doubling of the divorce rate over the last half of the twentieth century.
That does this have to do with health? Studies have shown that married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier than unmarried adults. Married people are less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors and are more likely to engage in activities that promote health. Married men and women live longer than those who are single. The effects of family life on health are even more evident in children.
In 1997 the American Academy of Pediatrics commissioned a task force to investigate the role of family in the health of children. Their report was published in 2003. The task force concluded that “A well-functioning family of 2 parents and their children is potentially the most secure, supportive, and nurturing environment for children. Parenting is difficult and is easier when shared. Children do best when raised by 2 caring, cooperative parents with adequate social and financial resources. Having married parents, in general, is good for children—economically, socially, spiritually, and psychologically. Marriage strengthens children’s claims to the economic resources, love and affection, nurturing, and social capital of both parents, including access to extended families. Marriage helps promote and support responsible and caring parenting. Moreover, parents’ help, support, encouragement, and love for each other enhance their effectiveness as parents. Parents’ love and respect for each other promote the child’s well-being.”
I am honored to have been granted the privilege of writing a monthly column for Families Online Magazine. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to address issues related to health. I hope that in doing so I will help you add life to your years and years to your life.
I graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Medicine in 1972, so I have been assisting people with their health challenges for nearly forty years. I spent most of my professional career practicing family medicine, providing care “from womb to tomb.” I delivered babies, treated their childhood illnesses, performed school and athletic physicals, mended broken bones, repaired lacerations, counseled families in crises, managed chronic diseases, and provided end-of life care. It was not uncommon to provide medical care to three or even four generations of a family simultaneously. In the process I became a part of many of those families. I rejoiced with them in their triumphs and grieved with them in their losses.
In 1999 I changed the scope of my medical practice. My years in family medicine had taught me that there are many health challenge that cannot be adequately addressed in a ten or fifteen minute office call. Today I work primarily with individuals who are facing health challenges for which they are having difficulty finding answers. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes of their conditions it is possible for most of them to restore their health, adding life to their years and years to their lives.
I applaud the mission of Families Online and look forward to supporting it through columns that promote the health of families and individuals. I encourage you to adopt strategies that improve and support healthy living. When you optimize your health, you maximize your life!
Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health. His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges. He is the author of Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .
Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.