There’s been a lot of noise lately about preventing and spreading viruses or infections. But very little attention has been dedicated to people’s overall general health. Puzzling, because if you’re in good health, you’ve got a better shot at beating whatever is coming at you via the air, water, or other people.
Time to dig a little deeper, and take a top to bottom (yes, that too) look at yourself. Reign in those, but-I-have-other-things-to-do thoughts and take a health inventory today.
Your primary care physician is the person who’s supposed to have your health covered. If you have a good relationship with your doctor (about half of Americans are), then you’re in good shape. An open relationship with your doctor can lead to an honest conversation about ways to better your health. If you’re not happy, you need a new doctor. So, how do you find the best family doctor in your area? Two options: look at your local hospital’s website for listing and look at your insurance. For the entire family, doctors in a family or general practice are great for treating patients of all ages.
If your kids are out of the house, or have outgrown their pediatrician, you may want to switch to a doctor that specializes in internal medicine. They specialize in prevention, diagnosis, and management of disease and chronic conditions in adults. These practices can remind you of a recommended test (mammogram, prostate, annual physicals). Good doctors in good practice will give you more than you can find on the internet—experience and commonsense medicine. Check to see if they’re accepting new patients. Then, find out where they have admitting privileges. If you’re admitted to a local hospital, you’ll want to be seen by them.
Headaches? Primary causes include stress, tension in the muscles of the face, neck or jaw, and/or lack of sleep. Squinting at a computer screen for hours can trigger headaches that may last for hours. Of course, taking breaks every 15 minutes can help. Also taking care of your eyes. Perhaps you need a new prescription, or maybe you should switch to contacts. Eyes tend to dry out as you get older and need extra care. Cataracts, which are clouding of the lens of the eye, making vision blurry, occur with aging. There is some evidence that prolonged exposure to sunshine can hasten the development of cataracts.
If you don’t have one, it’s time to look for a reliable eye doctor or nearby eye care centre. And invest in a decent pair of sunglasses that reduce glare and help reduce squinting which can also bring on headaches. Remember your ears. Hearing loss is expected as you age. Reducing your exposure to loud noise and music are great ways to better your health and hearing. Invest in noise-canceling headphones when listening to your favorite podcast.
Skin and hair
Take a look at your hands, feet, and face. If your skin is generally dry and itchy, it could be your diet. Many foods elicit allergic reactions that inflame the skin. An elimination diet, in which you remove a food from your diet and observe any changes in your skin, may provide answers. Salty, surgery foods, as well as alcohol, can dry out the skin. On the other hand, fish, olive oil, and avocados may help hydrate your skin.
If your skin is too oily, it may be due to surges in hormones like estrogen or testosterone. It’s not uncommon for women going through pregnancy or menopause to see noticeable changes in their skin and hair. The good news is that increases in hormones, and oily skin, are temporary. In some cases, you might just need to invest in a dehumidifier or HVAC repairs if you’re too sweaty.
Hair is also at the mercy of hormones. Hair will thin out with age due to increases in testosterone. Conditions like hypothyroidism can increase shedding or thinning of hair. Women (and some men) with low iron may also experience hair loss. Typically, older men lose their hair due to male-pattern baldness. While not a major health crisis, it’s still upsetting. Some men find success with topical hair growth treatments such as minoxidil. Looking good and feeling good about yourself is another of the many ways to better your health.
Studies suggest that tooth loss is related to heart disease While there’s no direct link, but doctors are seeing a pattern between poor oral care and cardiac conditions. Gum disease is loosely associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Brushing and flossing are still the best ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Calcium and vitamin D are your teeth’s best friends. Both keep the dentin — the hard substance of your teeth — strong, as well as the jaw bone. Keeping your gums and mouth moist is critical to healthy teeth. Hydrate often and avoid chewing tobacco, cigarettes, and cigars. Overuse of these products may lead to oral and pancreatic cancers. Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to better your health — and reduce the risk of cancer overall.
Twice yearly trips to the dentist provide thorough examinations of your mouth and tongue, and can detect oral cancerous lesions. While the American Dental Association says that tongue scraping helps reduce bad breath, there’s not a lot of evidence to support its reducing cavities. Hint: Floss before you brush, it loosens the material between your teeth. Then you can brush them away.
You probably already know that heart disease is a serious killer. But did you know it is the number one killer of women? Of all the ways to better your health, keeping your heart in good shape should be at the top of your list. The heart is a muscle, always working, never stopping. It needs exercise but it also needs to slow down.
If you exercise—fantastic! But pay attention to the warm-up and cool-down periods, this is when you need to be gentle on your heart. A good warm-up will be about five minutes or so, a good cool-down should be about 10 minutes. If at any time you feel chest or stomach pain, dizziness, your heart is thudding in your chest or you feel especially winded, slow down the exercise and then gradually stop. While it’s rare, sometimes exercise can be too hard on your heart. It’s important to keep your blood pressure under control, maintain a healthy weight, and manage your diabetes.
The first line of defense in our immune system is our digestive tract. Between the physical and chemical firewalls, it’s hard for anything like bacteria to play havoc with our immune system. A healthy diet and supplementation with probiotics keep the bacteria (flora) levels stable. As you get older, you’ll need to pay closer attention to your gut. Diseases like colon cancer strike about 200,000 Americans each year.
The good news is that if you catch it early there’s an effective treatment. Simple additions of dried fruit into your diet can reduce the risk of colon cancer. You’ll be adding pectin—a soluble fiber also found in oatmeal—which is effective in not just reducing your risk of colon cancer but also in lowering cholesterol and managing diabetes. Conditions like GERD, constipation, diverticulitis, and Celiac disease require careful attention to diet. And attention to your poop. Yes, this is where ways to better your health get ugly. A healthy person should produce an ounce of poop for every 12 pounds of body weight. So, a healthy 140-pound woman should produce about a pound of poop daily. However, it’s okay if you don’t go every day. What really matters is your routine. You should empty your bowels regularly and not strain or see blood. Blood is a sign of hemorrhoids or cancer—call your doctor. Weird fact: Constipation can cause back pain.
Achy knees, shoulders, hips? Maybe you need a new one? There’s a chance with a little help you maybe avoid the surgery that comes with joint aches and pain. Discuss the possibility of a physical therapist with your doctor. Physical therapists, when seen on a regular basis, can help you achieve a range of motion without stiffness or excruciating pain. While visits can cost up to $200 per visit, insurances can cover and reduce your bill to $20-50 per visit. Also, know that those are expenses are medical expense and can be deducted on your tax returns.
According to the Harvard Heart Letter, swimming is the best exercise for your heart lungs and joints. The publication sites studies that showed regular swimmers living longer than runners or walkers. If you live in an area that doesn’t get warming sun, consider installing a swimming pool solar heating system. These systems heat your pool using the sun’s energy. The systems don’t rely on electricity and can harvest the sun’s rays even when it appears cloudy. Who knew that enjoying a pool was one of the ways to better your health?
Worldwide, back pain and injury are the top cause of disability. If you are experiencing back pain, your doctor may be prescribing medication. Ask if she can recommend medical equipment to ease your back and body into a more normal, pain-free routine. It could be as simple as a folding cane or an adjustable walker. If your mattress is getting old, getting out of bed in the morning can wreak havoc on your back. And your sleeping habits.
A good night’s sleep is one of the ways to better your health. Having a bed with a railing can both provide stability and support while preventing you from rolling off the bed when you’re sleeping. Power Lift recliners are chairs that lift you up and tip forward to ease you into a standing position. And yet, back pain can be so debilitating, you may only find a certain measure of comfort when you lie down. But many doctors believe that movement is the key to alleviating pain. Simple stretches like reaching your hands over your head. Or, in a sitting position, gently reach forward to touch your toes. Strong abdominal muscles are great for eliminating back pain. Stable core muscles help support the back muscles.
Are you worn down because you have a lot on your plate? Then, delegate. What don’t you want to do? Wash the car? Let the machines do it—it will help spare your car’s paint. Studies have shown that when people hand wash their cars, they rub too hard and scour the paint. No time for the house cleaning chores? Look into home or apartment cleaning services. Trained cleaners who can tackle your kitchen, bathroom, carpets, and the corners you can’t (or don’t want to) reach. You won’t have to stand on ladders or wrangle heavy equipment and hurt your back. It’s not unusual that energy levels drop when you lose enthusiasm for regular activities like exercising. If you’ve worn out your walking paths or are tire seeing the same faces every week, try a new exercise. Many gyms feature workout classes that include fun Zumba, challenging power yoga, and Disco music spinning.
Almost 20% of American adults are suffering from mental health issues, ranging from anxiety disorders to addiction. About 5% have a severe mental health disease. Unfortunately, these numbers may not reflect the true sense of the larger issue. Because not everyone seeks counseling or drug addiction treatment. The Breakthrough Behavioral Health Access: Think Virtual report said that only 43% of adults suffering from such issues are currently receiving treatment.
Why don’t people seek substance abuse interventions? Reasons vary. Some say that treatment (therapy and medications are too expensive). Some think they can handle it on their own. And some are just ashamed to admit they have a mental health or substance abuse problem. But it’s not about you all the time, drunk drivers kill 10,000 people each year. So, when you get help, you’re not just saving your life, you’re saving someone else’s as well. It’s not just about you finding ways to better your health, it’s helping the next guy too.
Even though you may have to do some homework and creative schedule juggling when it comes to making doctors’ appointments, there are so many ways to better your health. Small ways like drinking more water or getting to bed before 10:30 pm. You don’t have to join a gym or relax at one of those expensive spa resorts. All you need is a serious commitment to better your health: the kind of commitment that means you are serious about taking care of yourself.