Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D.
Do you recall how you felt when you purchased your first new car? Each time you walked toward it in the parking lot, the excitement and awe-inspired sensation that tickled your skin never seemed to lessen in intensity. You adored that car: the new car smell, the pristine seats, the shiny tires, and you loved how sharp you looked in it!
However, you soon learned that beloved vehicle came with many maintenance recommendations that must be met within a timely manner. The car needed regular oil changes, tire rotations, battery checks, occasional hose and belt changes, and routine auto body detail. Keeping the car in tip-top condition required hard work, dedication, and sacrificial contributions of your monetary resources.
In comparison, the human body can similarly be explained. There are a host of recommendations that each infant, child, teen, adult, or senior need to prevent various diseases. Many of our leading health organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, and the United States Preventative Task Force formulate the guidelines that physicians across the country follow. As each of you reflect upon this past year with its successes and failures, I hope you are considering ways to make 2014 bigger, better, and healthier. How can you achieve those goals? Where do you start? Who can assist you?
Make an appointment to see your primary care provider. If you do not have one, please seek recommendations from your insurance company, family or friends. Doctors should be more than just “one-night stands.” If your doctor has to introduce herself to you each rare time you visit, then obviously you have not been to the office enough. Adults should at least have a physical once a year. This physical should include a blood pressure check, weight, and BMI (body mass index) calculation. Depending upon your other health co-morbidities, a lipid panel, blood sugar, and/or a complete metabolic profile should be obtained.
Become current with recommendations for your age group such as getting screening tests and immunizations. If you are a woman and at least 40 years of age, get a mammogram. This digital image of your breast can be done at any hospital or imaging center and usually does not require a referral from your doctor if you have private insurance. You simply need to call the scheduling center and make an appointment. Detecting a breast mass when it is small can potentially save your life. If the current trajectory of breast cancer disease in African American women is to change, early detection is the key.
All adults starting at age 50 need a screening colonoscopy, an endoscopic view of the colon. This procedure is not painful but does involve a fairly thorough colon preparation a day before. A flexible camera is inserted into the rectum, and advanced through the entire large intestine searching for any abnormalities, such as polyps or inflammation. If a polyp is identified, it is removed and sent to pathology to determine if cancer is present. The majority of people whose colon cancer is found early will be alive five years later and will go on to live a normal life.
Commit to a four to five-day-a-week schedule of exercise. Many of the local facilities are having special promotions where there is a $0 joining fee. Consider eliminating that daily run to Starbuck’s for the Caramel Frappuccino, you would then have the money for a gym membership and you would decrease your daily calorie intake. That’s a win/win situation! Invest in yourself this year and hire a personal trainer. If you have never consistently worked out before, you need a professional to teach you the proper exercises and techniques for maximum results. You would not consider bungee jumping without receiving appropriate guidance, so why do you think exercising is any different?
Stop poisoning your body. Make 2014 the year of fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and water. Purify your body the natural way. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars allowing someone to flush water through you to be cleansed. Allow your body to do it naturally by eating close to nature. If it came from the ground, a vine or a tree, it is probably good for you. Eliminate excessive sugar, processed and fried foods, and those nasty cancer- causing cigarettes. You can’t even imagine how good your body will feel after that.
These are only a few suggestions to get you started on the right track. Please see your doctor so that a specific plan can be designed for you. Each of you are unique in that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and there is no one size fits all.
Lastly, I want to hear from you this year. Share your success stories. Start a health revolution at your job or place of worship. We here at The St. Louis American want to hear about it. A rising tide lifts all ships! Have a blessed and healthy New Year!
Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D., Assistant Professor, SLUCare Family Medicine (firstname.lastname@example.org)