Prevention is the Best Policy
Would you rather change the oil in your car every few thousand miles or replace the engine after a total catastrophic failure? Most of us pick the oil change because basic regular maintenance makes the most sense. We apply this philosophy to our cars, our homes, our professional projects, and our electronics. When it comes to our health, however, we often put-off regular check-ups and often deliberately ignore warning signs.
A recent NPR article tells the story of Oliver Bogler, a 46-year-old man who noticed a strange lump in his chest. His next step? He ignored it for months. When he finally talked to his physician, the lump was soon identified as invasive breast cancer.
There are a lot of dynamics at play in this story, not the least of which is the fact that many men forget that they too have breast tissue and are therefore susceptible to breast cancer. The larger problem is that in many cases we hide behind the comfort of blissful ignorance or we outright underestimate just how much trouble a little problem today can cause a few months from now.
When I worked in critical care, I saw this happen again and again. Patients would come to the hospital in serious condition, and through our dialog, we would often uncover that hints of the problem presented themselves long before we ever shook hands. Shortness of breath? Chest or abdominal pain? Dizziness and nausea? “Well, yeah, but I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
And those are just the obvious symptoms. If longevity is one of your health goals, regular check-ups should be just as much a part of your Habits of Health as exercise. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are some tips:
- Talk to your physician. Your physician knows your health history and recommend a routine check-up schedule that makes the most sense for you. This regular dialog gives you the perspective of a professional and helps to keep your own health top of mind.
- Ask your physician what to monitor and stick with that plan. Paying more attention to the signals your body gives you can help you to catch a potential problem early. Your physician can tell you what to keep an eye on and teach you how.
- Paranoia is not the answer either. I’m not suggesting that you should phone your doctor for every sniffle or bruise. This is why a conversation with your physician is so critical. He or she can give you a set of practical criteria and recommend a monitoring plan based on your unique health situation.
- Continue pursuing Optimal Health. The closer you get to Optimal Health, the easier noticing a negative change becomes. When you live in a perpetual state of disease, you just generally feel bad, which means that a potential warning sign can get lost in the static. If you have your health cleaned up and organized, you are more likely to see when something is out of place.