[Taunya is nurse, author, and director of MAWMedia Group’s Health Literacy efforts. Find her author page at facebook.com/authorTSW This blog post was written during a break in work on her forthcoming novel End Time Saga available Spring 2013.]
When you go to the doctor’s office, clinic or hospital do you expect your caregivers to have all the answers to your health issues? Do you think there is a magic pill they can prescribe to make all your ailments go away?
Let me tell you a little secret. No magic health pill exists.
In order to provide you with a treatment plan caregivers have to do a thorough assessment, find out your medical history, ask more questions about the symptoms you are having, and make a best guess at a diagnosis. Sometimes things work. Other times you get to the right answer through trial and error. The only “magic” is to maintain your health diminishing the need for medical services.
Being responsible for your own health can be a rewarding endeavor. It can be as simple as reading food labels, taking a daily multi-vitamin, learning about side effects of the medicines you are taking, looking up health information about medical conditions, learning about natural or holistic health remedies, or getting more exercise. You may also find out how different environments, foods, stressors, and activity impact your body.
These days, when people are admitted to the hospital, they enter with three or four diagnoses.
For example, a patient may be admitted with shortness of breath. Their diagnosis: Hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and anxiety. Wait! There is more. The patient is a smoker–1 ½ packs a day. Once you examine what the patient brought to the hospital, you realize that it makes sense for them to have shortness of breath. It is appropriate to assess and isolate the immediate causing of the shortness of breath so that the patient can take steps to overcome this immediate emergency. But, the lifestyle that includes a 1 ½ pack per day smoking habit, low activity, high stress, along with little water or fiber in the diet suggests further health complications now and in the future.
The health challenges build on each other.
Hypertension is when the blood pressure is elevated above what is considered normal. High blood pressure can cause damage to the arterial walls related to the stiffening of plague and the narrowing of the vessels, this makes the heart work harder to get oxygen. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a vascular disorder that narrows or occludes the coronary arteries located in the heart. Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of CAD, which is a buildup of plaque on the arterial wall; this too makes the heart work harder and only offers a narrow space for oxygen rich blood to come through. With Diabetes there is insulin resistance that contributes to arterial damage. It is also associated with increased lipid levels. Cigarette smoking without all the other health issues exacerbates vessel constriction (narrowing). This, in turn, makes the heart work harder (Huether and McCance 2000). Anxiety fits this clinical picture because when you can’t breathe, you tend to feel anxious.
What can this patient do to be responsible for their own health at this point? Remember there is no magic pill. Please keep in mind even though you may find yourself saddled with a health issue, there is still something you can do. The health solutions build on each other as well.
For this patient, sustainable choices would include the following:
Quit smoking! Figure out the stress or routine that is the support for the addiction and create new ways to accomplish those needs. A change in diet and increased activity are two great starts for this exploration. Exercise can also improve heart health. Diet changes like rebalancing meals, increased water and fiber intake can impact plaque buildup, lipids in the blood, energy, and sense of wellbeing. Diet and exercise are also keys to managing diabetes. Meditation techniques can help to address the anxiety and underlying stress reactions.
The point is that plenty options exist for you to be the main participant in your health maintenance. Remember, it is better to prevent problems before they happen.
–Taunya Wright RN, BS