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Wise health consumers stay healthy
Health advice
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February has been Wise Health Care Consumer Month, a time to reflect on steps we should take to get the most out of our healthcare.
A wise health consumer is a physically and emotionally healthy consumer. No matter how young and healthy we believe ourselves to be, it’s critical that we take an interest in our body. No one else will care if the consequences of today’s actions result in pain and disability later — even loved ones have only limited control.
There are some things that we can all do to take better care of ourselves:
1. Drink plenty of water and fluids. Limit sodas, tea and drinks prepared with lots of sugar.
2. Get plenty of rest. Lack of sleep affects us mentally as well as physically.
3. Exercise. Walk instead of driving when possible.
4. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and control weight. Be sure to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and use the “half rule of thumb,” fill half the plate with fruit and veggies and the other half with protein and starch.
5. Practice responsible sexual behaviors.
6. Find ways to manage stress and take care of mental health needs. Stress can put you at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, trigger headaches and asthma attacks, as well as exacerbating other medical conditions.
7. Wearing sunscreen and protecting our skin. The sun can affect skin even when it’s cold.
8. Stop smoking, limit alcoholic beverages and discontinue drugs not prescribed by your healthcare provider. You will also want to discuss over-the-counter medicines and herbal preparations you use.
Examining and making simple modifications to everyday living can produce positive results. Altering your lifestyle can result in a healthier life as well as improving your emotional and mental well-being.
Self-care is a new term for understanding and taking control of your health. It means, among other things, that you shouldn’t ignore a problem. Early detection is key to preventing serious problems. Effective self-care, detection and prevention also includes knowing your family history, what illnesses run in your family and the risks for those diseases.
It is also important that you feel comfortable with your healthcare provider, that you can ask questions when you don’t understand something and express doubts when you have concerns.
Most people leave the office wishing you had asked other questions or addressed a forgotten concern. A simple solution is to keep a health journal, write issues down as you think of them, or before your visit, and use the journal to make sure you discuss everything.
We all deserve thorough and clear explanations and information from our healthcare providers. You are your own best advocate and advocating for yourself means getting what you need every visit.
You should ask what your provider is looking for in a test and you should request the treatment options when you know the results. There is usually more than one way to manage or treat a condition. Ask about the benefits, risks and side effects of the different treatment options and why they recommend a particular treatment. You can do this also when medications are prescribed.
Last of all, have a good understanding of your health insurance plan, know what is covered and what is not and when you must get clearance for a procedure. Start being a wise health consumer today!
Ratcliffe works with the Coastal Health District out of Hinesville. Call her at 876-2173.
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