Patient Education, Resources, Treatment

Health Beyond Headache

I think about my health a lot. So I figured I was taking care of all my health care needs. Until a good friend was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months before her 32nd birthday. Even though she’s so young. In my grief for my friend, I realized how much I’ve neglected my body. I never do a breast self-exam. For that matter, I hadn’t had a physical since 1997. I hadn’t even established a primary care doc in Seattle.

Last Friday I saw an internist, who happens to be my friend’s doctor, whom I adored. I had my blood pressure and cholesterol tested, and was also tested for diabetes and thyroid problems. (I have symptoms that could be either one, but could also just be drug side effects. No worries yet.)

Yearly physicals are no longer considered necessary, but everyone should have certain tests regularly. Unfortunately, finding consensus on how often some things, like cholesterol, should be checked is difficult. Age is another factor in the equation, and is how WebMD categorize’s it’s recommendations:  20s & 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and older. These guidelines are a starting point, but I perused many sources for test frequency recommendations and found varying suggestions. Talk to your doctor about the frequency he or she recommends and ask whose recommendations guide that decision. You can then learn the reasoning behind those guidelines and decide if you’re comfortable with that.

It’s too easy to believe you’re not vulnerable. That eating cookie dough regularly won’t raise your cholesterol or that the two servings of vegetables each day is enough. That tests won’t show any problems, so there’s no reason to do them. In other words, we’re dishonest with ourselves. We all know it, even if we choose to turn away from the truth. Hiding from this reality may be most well-practiced behavior.

I wish that my friend didn’t have to endure the turmoil of breast cancer, but her story is the seismic disturbance that woke me up. Maybe it will help you too.

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