Dr. Decipher: Don’t Worry, Be Healthy

December 29th, 2008 by WY Daily Staff

Dr. Decipher: Don't Worry, Be Healthy

As we start another New Year, let’s look at what we should do to get and stay healthy. Much of this is common sense but fatherly reminders never hurt.

Quit Smoking

With all the negative news about smoking, the number of people who still smoke shows the addictive power of tobacco.  The myriad of health problems includes various cancers (even in the bladder), vascular disease (heart attack and stroke), even a condition known as Buerger’s Disease (clots in small blood vessels causing numbness in the fingers and toes).  Many patients have recently quit smoking by using Chantix, a prescription medication taken once a day for a few months.  The cost is high (about $125/month) but nothing compared to the health problems that can be avoided (and factor in the cost of cigarettes, about $25/carton).  Side effects may include nausea and sleep problems but Pfizer has set up a help line to assist patients.

Exercise

The idea is to get the heart rate up regardless of the activity.  20 minutes 3 times a week is the minimum, but the sticking point is usually just getting out of the gate and beginning a routine.  Try brisk walks, bicycle rides, or if your joints allow, jogging. Swimming is great as it takes the pressure off the joints.  Exercise machines including treadmills, stair masters, and ellipticals (my favorite) can be used in the winter. A lot of folks are buying the Wii Fit to have fun and exercise in front of the TV.

Diet

Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, fiber; use meat as a condiment, or even better, cook fish. A fiber supplement such as Metamucil can be helpful to promote bowel motility and tone, and to prevent diverticulitis (inflammation of small pouches in the colon). Avoid large late evening meals as well as fatty, greasy and fried foods.  Indulge yourself as a reward for eating well.

Preventive Medicine

It is far better to prevent problems rather than treat them (if only Medicare and insurance companies reimbursed prevention better).  Establish a primary care provider and get a check-up.  Schedule the age appropriate testing.  If you don’t like your primary care provider, check with your insurance company to get a list, ask around, and make calls for an appointment.

Give Your Health Insurance a Check-Up

Pull out your insurance card and your policy (if you can find it) and check deductibles for primary care, specialists, as well as the emergency department and hospital. Make sure you have enough coverage prior to getting socked with a big bill after an illness.  This is the cause of many bankruptcies.  Also take note of which hospitals are preferred by your insurance.  Optima is a Sentara product; Anthem Healthkeepers was recently sold by Riverside.  If you have no health insurance, check into a catastrophic policy with high deductibles or Medicaid if you qualify. 

Avoid Stress and Worry

Multiple medical studies have verified the health risks of stress and anxiety.  Think about your life and how to minimize stress (exercise helps here also).  Many years ago, I knew an extremely anxious woman who utilized multiples clinics many times a month.  She had almost every conceivable test performed without any serious medical problems detected. Each time I saw her she looked more and more anxious and thin, then one day she just died in bed.  One could argue that she had some mysterious protracted illness but I am convinced she worried herself to death.

I look forward to writing more about healthcare topics in 2009 and I wish you all the best of health. Peace.

Disclaimer: This does not take the place of regular medical care, and is not a complete review of any medical conditions. Consult with a physician before any treatment or taking any medications. Seek medical attention immediately for any serious symptoms, or call 911. No current or local patients have been referenced, so any resemblance is purely coincidental.

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