How to save your life? The easy answer is to take care of yourself. But taking care of yourself isn’t as subjective as it seems. Your mental health, your emotions, and your physical health can be subjective. They also need objective evaluation. Here’s the thing…if you are ignoring any part of yourself, you aren’t taking care of yourself. And guess what? If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you aren’t taking care of anyone else. Empower yourself to take care of you first.
Like on an airplane—give yourself the oxygen / the self-care—so that you are able to help your child or loved one. Ignoring your health and assuming you’re healthy enough can be deadly. You can do the basics:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat healthy—on the average for a week
- Drink plenty of water— (plenty means enough that your urine is light yellow)
- Get enough exercise
- Maintain personal hygiene
- Don’t take on too much (see my post, Warning 10 Signs You’ve Pushed Too Hard)
But the basics may not be enough for you. You could be deluding yourself about “doing enough.” Bottom line, as you age what’s enough changes.
Annual Health Needs
Don’t worry. I’m not saying you must have an annual physical exam by a physician. Are you living a healthy lifestyle and have no family history of disease that might shorten your life? You may not need an annual exam. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do an annual review of your health and your wellness plan.
Your age and gender mean you have different needs. Each year, your body changes—not a news flash but—with these changes comes different risks of health problems. Be pro-active.
There are tests and vaccinations recommended for each age and gender. Do you know what you should be checking each year? You can find out at My Health Finder Tool.
If the cost keeps you from the doctor’s office, check your insurance. Many plans, including Medicare, cover an annual wellness check.
DIY Health Review
Check in with your body—know what’s normal now, what was normal last year, and if there are differences. Write it down. You won’t remember. Some symptoms come on so gradually you don’t notice, even if you think you would.
Listen to your body. Don’t assume that your symptoms are the same as Aunt Mae who got the rheumatism when she turned the same age. If you have a new pain or ache or lump that isn’t explainable (I pulled a muscle, stubbed my toe)—take it seriously. If an explainable pain or ache or lump isn’t better in a reasonable amount of time—call your doctor’s office. Sometimes advice over the phone is all you need. Sometimes you need a medical professional to look at it.
Ignoring symptoms won’t make them disappear or get better. Ignoring symptoms often makes the treatment take longer and cost more. Remember, there are emotional, physical, and monetary costs to your lack of health.
If you have a family history of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer regular checkups can be life-saving. Don’t ignore them. Those health concerns only get more intense as you age.
If you suspect you might have a health problem—see your doctor. Take a list of symptoms and questions with you. It’s easy to forget to cover all your concerns when the visit is brief or rushed.
If you have a family history of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, or cancer. Educate yourself. Start with national organizations. Here are a few that I recommend:
- American Heart Association
- American Lung Association
- American Stroke Association
- American Diabetes Association
Many major health centers have health education on their websites.
Your doctor gave you a new-to-you diagnosis. Maybe it’s high blood pressure or diabetes or arthritis. Ask for information—even a pamphlet that gives you basic information is helpful.
Check with your local clinic and hospital for educational programs. A local chapter of a national organization may also offer educational programs. Even if you look it up on the internet, it’s best to go to at least one education program by medical professionals. They have suggestions on how to adapt your lifestyle to the new diet, exercises, or medication.
No matter how much internet research you do, you cannot know as much as the appropriate healthcare professional. Get professional advice or education.
If your doctor prescribes a medication —follow through. Investigate:
- How much does it cost
- What is it supposed to do for you
- Will there be a problem if you don’t take it
- What potential side effects does it cause
- How long will you need to take the medication
If its cost, function, side effects or duration are unacceptable to you—TALK to your doctor. Follow through. Not taking the medication without talking to your doctor is the worst kind of self-destruction. Your doctor often can prescribe something cheaper or with different or fewer side effects.
Not taking medications without knowing these things is playing Russian Roulette and it’s not likely you’ll win.
If you’re on medications—don’t stop without checking with your physician or pharmacist. Some medications can’t be stopped suddenly without severe consequences.
Don’t assume over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, or alcohol are safe to take with the prescription medication. Check with your pharmacist. Your pharmacist understands the medication better than your physician does.
Take the medication as directed. If you cannot for some reason, talk to your physician or your pharmacist. There are different formulations, dosages, and ways to make medications easier. Ask for information.
Involve a Health Partner
If you get a new diagnosis, especially for a chronic disease, involve at least one other person. Someone who lives with you is best, but find at least one person who will be your health partner, your second. A second person has a different perspective and may ask different questions than you. That different perspective may see changes in you that you don’t see yourself. And, if you get the flu or otherwise fall ill, someone who knows your health history and medications may save your life.
Keep a Written History
Document your health and illnesses, not every cold and sniffle. Keep a list of every surgery, every medication you take, every allergy, and every diagnosis. That document will come in handy. Give it to your healthcare professional when you aren’t well enough for a thirty-question session.
Keep a copy on your person and in a location known to your second. If you can’t get to it, your second should be able to get it for you. It might save your life.
Save Your Life
Why do I care? Because dear friends of mine are having health surprises that didn’t have to surprise them. Save your life. Don’t wait until you have a heart attack, a stroke, or go into a diabetic coma. Be selfish and take care of yourself first. Be aware of changes in your body. Educate yourself. Seek professional evaluations, education, and advice. Have a health partner, a second. Keep records. By doing all this, you will empower yourself and save your life. Be selfish and be the best you, the healthiest that you can be.