The decision to take control of your health care is necessary. It is a life decision that goes beyond diet and exercise. Ideally, you want to make the decision when you are healthy. It will pay off. It will help you know yourself better and could prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem. Also, when you do need a doctor, for whatever reason, it will help them help you. Taking control of your health care is about ensuring a longer good quality of life. Who doesn’t want that, right? Self-care is a lifestyle that you may have already thought about, but have been putting off. Now is as good a time as any to begin the process.
Disclaimer – I am not a physician. I am someone who has spent my entire life at the doctors. Being proactive with my health care has become second nature. I would like to pass along some of the things I have picked up along the way to help you live a longer, healthier life.
- Listen to Your Body. Living in denial when something feels wrong will only make things worse. Needing a doctor is not a weakness. They are there to help you. All you have to do is reach out and accept that help. I know how hard this step can be at times. There are times you find yourself in a gray area, unsure if what you are feeling is something or nothing. Use your best judgment, but as a general rule of thumb, when dealing with your health, it is better to be safe than sorry.
- Example. I knew someone that started experiencing chest pains one day. To err on the safe side, he listened to his body and went to the doctor. He ended up in surgery that night, which most likely saved his life and quality of life. If he had waited, he could have died. Don’t wait.
- Self-diagnosis get you nowhere. Be leery of the internet in this regard. If you are feeling symptomatic – see your doctor. Do not go down that rabbit hole, you will most likely end up wishing you hadn’t.
- The internet can be a great tool to help you research your doctor’s diagnosis though.
- Buy a blood pressure cuff. Blood pressure cuffs are inexpensive, easy to use/understand, compact, and reliable. Checking your vitals takes no time, less than 30-seconds. This small device can save you heartache. There is a reason they call high blood pressure the silent killer. If you are an overachiever, check your vitals once a week. If not, once a month will due, if you are in good health. A normal blood pressure reading is 120 over 80. If you are consistently running higher than that, you want to consult your physician. The goal here is to prevent an emergency. The sooner you can catch a problem and work to remedy it the better off you will be.
- It is wise to have a vitals log or journal. It is easier that way. Your vitals log will fit nicely into your medical history file. I am thinking of offering my vital log template for FREE. Let me know in the comments if you are interested. I would love to help simplify your record keeping.
- Keep a medical history file. Keeping good records is an integral aspect of taking control of your health care. Everything is digital these days, but I prefer to keep this file paper. Keeping a medical records file is often overlooked. But your medical history is very important when you need to refer to it. If you think about it, it’s the story of your life, from a medical perspective. I see mine as a journal. The larger your file grows the more important it becomes. If for some reason you find yourself in the hospital, get those records too. Get and keep everything. You never know.
- Go to the doctor for annual checkups. You should see your primary care physician every year. Insist on a blood and urine sample if it is not already part of their workup. It should be though. This accomplishes two goals. First, it will help you develop a good working relationship with your doctor. Secondly, it is a great preventative care measure. Again, it is much better to see your doctor when you are healthy, not sick.
- Make an effort to understand what your doctor is telling you. What comes out of a doctor’s mouth is often incomprehensible and confusing. That’s because medical language is a blend of Greek, Latin, and code. Many of them struggle with an English translation, especially when they are in a hurry, which they all are. But, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think of your doctor as a team member.
- Personally, I do not feel it is necessary to have somebody with you at routine examinations. But if you need a specialist, having somebody there can help. Especially in the early days of the relationship.
- Get a copy of the blood and urine report. Do not be afraid to ask for it. It will make a great addition to your medical history file. And look at it! Do not be intimidated by the list of acronyms and numbers. A quick internet search will decode any and all categories. Realize that your doctor simply does not have the time to go through each category of the report with you. But do not let them get away with only saying the report “looks good.”
- You should know the big categories – highlight them. For instance – know your fasting glucose score. Your cholesterol levels. Your red and white blood cell counts. Your creatinine (kidney function) level.
- Do NOT take pills blindly. It is often assumed that when a doctor prescribes medication, it is safe to take. While this is true in most instances, you still want to know what side effects you may experience. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about medication side effects. It is also important to know how a new medication will interact with ones you are already taking. Note the side effects as you take the prescription, and if they bother you, make sure you talk to your doctor about it. Often dosages can be tweaked to be better suited.
- Stay the course. Do not stop taking a prescription because you were feeling sick and now you feel well. Finish the prescription. If you are taking something indefinitely, continue taking it until told otherwise.
- Get a weekly am/pm pillbox manager and a travel am/pm pillbox. It is easy to forget to take your medication. The pill managers will reduce that forgetfulness. If you go out to dinner, put your medication in the travel box and bring it along. I do this all the time. Part of the goal is to keep medication levels in your bloodstream consistent and stable. Do your best to stay on schedule.
- Consistency matters. If your doctor tells you to take medication in the morning and night, set a schedule. For instance, 8 am and 8 pm. If it is a once a day medication, take it at the same time each morning. The same goes for over the counter supplements. There is a purpose for the instruction, even if your doctor fails to tell you what that is.