What would motivate you to live a healthier lifestyle? Many of us are motivated by pain or fear of an early death. Those are great motivators — but why can’t we just be motivated before that happens?

Recently I heard the best story about motivation. It’s the true story of the founders of Baskin-Robbins, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins. These two men were brothers-in-law, close friends and super-successful businessmen, but they had very different end-of-life stories.

When Baskin died very early at 54 years old, Robbins was motivated. The death of a family member or a dear friend sure can snap us into gear. But sadly, many of us will wait until something is wrong to address our health issues.

After Baskin died, Robbins was visiting a doctor to address his own heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, all typical American diseases caused in part by a typical American diet. A funny thing happened that changed Robbins’ life ending.

Irv Robbins’ doctor handed him a bestselling book to read called “Diet for a New America,” written by none other than Robbins’ only son, once thought to be only male heir to the Baskin-Robbins empire, John Robbins!

John Robbins grew up with an ice-cream-cone shaped swimming pool in his back yard, yet he realized he did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps.

John rebelled against the business, believing the diet that his uncle Burt consumed — which was heavy in ice cream and sugar — was what killed him.

Even though John and his father had a major falling-out over John not wanting to take over the Baskin-Robbins empire, Irv came around to John’s way of thinking and gave up sugar, ice cream and most meat products. He lost 30 pounds, got off all meds and even improved his golf game! Irv Robbins ended up living to 90 years old!

Irv Robbins was majorly motivated by his son’s way of thinking, and because of that he lived a long healthy life. Otherwise, he likely would have succumbed to the typical diseases he acquired, just like his partner and brother-in-law Burt Baskin.

Being motivated now instead of later is a major point that hits home, and we should all listen to it.

It’s not about just trying to eat better, but also making sure you get heart-healthy exercise 3-5 times a week (or 150 minutes a week).

Also, part of this equation for me, as a female living my 60th year, is getting those yearly visits to the doctor knocked out.

Personally, I would rather know about something potentially wrong with me and not hide my head in the sand by not going to get these yearly exams. This includes eye doctor, dentist, female specialists, skin doctor, mammogram … the list goes on.

I like to schedule all these exams around a certain time of year so when that season rolls around, I know that means it’s the season of health checkups. Just like changing the batteries in our smoke detectors when the time changes.

Preventative medicine is a way to promote health and hopefully prevent any lurking diseases. There is research that says a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce Alzheimer’s and dementia. Those are two diseases that are devastating.

I believe many of these “American” diseases are just a consequence of how we as Americans eat. And now they are so normal. But they are not normal in other countries.

Get motivated now, not when disaster strikes. Study the evidence out there that diet and exercise can be life-changing, and certainly disease-changing. Get motivated to make the changes before it’s too late.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and  manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.