7 Pro Tips for Taking Charge of Your Health

7 Pro Tips for Taking Charge of Your Health

Maybe today’s topic isn’t commonly thought of as being self-care, but I believe that it is one of the most important ways that we can care for ourselves and in doing so, potentially care for those we love. I'm talking about wellness exams and routine appointments, sometimes called preventative health. As a registered nurse sometimes I assume everyone knows this, but not everyone does - and it's too important not to pass along.

1. Go for annual wellness exams (bonus tip: come prepared)

This week I went to my primary care physician for a wellness exam. I arrived prepared with a current list of my medications and supplements as well as questions and issues that I had so that I was able to maximize my time with him. I came away with a lab requisition, a medication order, a referral to a specialist, and a plan for some further testing. 

2. Have recommended lab and imaging screens.

I also had my yearly mammogram that same morning.  My paternal grandmother died of breast cancer at age 26, so I stay on top of mammograms. My maternal grandmother died of lung cancer at 46, so I also initiated a conversation with my doctor about cancer screenings since I was a smoker for almost 30 years. Insurance may not pay for it yet, because generally, it's not covered or recommended until we’re 50 years old, but he went ahead and put in the requisition for it and will see if my insurance will approve it because I asked. Stay up-to-date on your screenings by checking out the recommendations at HHS.gov

3. Educate yourself

You and your providers are partners in your care.  You need to be educated and aware enough that you know of some things to ask about or question and then you need to have that discussion with your provider. I believe that for the most part, the days of just blindly accepting whatever the doctor tells you are over. But there is a difference between wanting to understand and advocating for yourself when you have made a truly informed, educated decision and know the risks versus benefits as opposed to a Google search and calling yourself educated or stating that you've “done your research”. 

4. Know your limits - and trust your gut

I am a nurse and have been for almost three decades. And there are still plenty of things that I can freely admit I have no clue about and by the same token, I appreciate having providers (physicians, physician's assistants, or nurse practitioners) who also acknowledge their limitations. There is too much known about medicine and the body for any one person to be an expert on all of that. As much as I would love to get all of my needs taken care of in a one-stop-shop, I have more confidence in and respect for a provider who knows when they need to refer me to a specialist. 

5. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from being honest.

The same afternoon I went to my gynecological nurse practitioner for my annual exam and also talked about a couple of difficult topics with her. I came away feeling empowered and excited, and like I was being very proactive about my health, happiness, and overall sense of well-being. 

6. Be proud of yourself for focusing on your health and well-being

To be quite honest, spending most of the day in offices or waiting to get in for the appointments was rather tiring, especially with the weather being kind of rainy. But afterward, I felt empowered enough by my visits, to push myself to go out and walk, and I ended up walking 3.25 miles in an hour which is a little more than a 5k. And I added to my feeling of satisfaction by incorporating another domain of self-care and listening to some business training while I was walking. 

7. Explore options - and get results

Take control of your health.  I know sometimes it can be scary if you’ve had a bad diagnosis in the past, or if you’ve had bad experiences with loved ones. Maybe insurance or finances are holding you back. There are lower-cost options out there, but it may take a little searching.  There are often special rates for those paying cash. There are clinics that provide income-based care. For labs and imaging, going to a free-standing clinic is often significantly cheaper than going through the hospital or doctor’s office - and they’re usually easier to get into in terms of appointments and parking.  Pro tip - they also make it very easy to get access to your results, either with a patient portal or being able to walk in and pick up a copy. I recommend getting a copy of your labs and tests. Not just the letter from your provider saying that everything is fine, but an actual report from the lab or radiologist with the details. Everyone is busy, including those in healthcare, and things can slip through the cracks. Be an active partner in your care. 

Simple things like this are going to be one of the biggest focuses of my upcoming membership group that will provide accountability and community as we navigate life’s everyday challenges. Stay tuned for more info soon! And if you’re not a member of the free Becoming YOUR Best Community on Facebook, make sure to join here!

Until next time, take a deep breath or two and never stop becoming the best version of YOU.

 

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