Sunday, January 13, 2013

Act Now — Be Your Own Health Advocate, Doctors Suggest

Do you know your blood pressure? Exactly what medicines including dosage, if any, do you take? When was your last physical? Physicians of the Texas Medical Association (TMA) remind patients to take charge of their own health by being informed, responsible partners in their care.

“I welcome patients’ involvement in their own care,” said Doug Curran, MD, a TMA Trustee and family doctor in Athens, Texas. “When patients can confirm exactly what medications they’re taking, or if they notice if their blood pressure or cholesterol readings tick up since their last visits… these things help me help them.”

Physicians like Dr. Curran urge patients to take an active role in their own health and their own care. Being aware of changes or concerns and communicating them with the doctor are just two good habits to adopt. “The new year is an ideal time to start fresh on a good routine; why not begin with your health?” he added.

TMA doctors suggest a few easy steps to help manage your health as a patient:

Know your meds: Understand your medications, list them (including dosages), and take the list to every doctor visit. “Some patients even bag up their pill bottles and bring them along, which is helpful to us,” said Dr. Curran. You can cut the potential for unnecessary duplications or harmful drug interactions by doing this, particularly if you see more than one prescribing physician. Also, ask your physician whether generic substitutions are right for you — you could save money if so.

Exercise: This may be a New Year’s resolution cliché, but it’s worthwhile. Experts often recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities. Set a manageable, attainable goal. Talk to your doctor — exercise improves your overall health, helps combat stress, improves restful sleep, and helps you …

Lose weight: Exercise and manage what you eat. Count calories (several online calorie-counters can help with this). Set a reasonable, attainable goal, like losing one pound per week or two. Eat vegetables and fruit every day, decrease your portions, choose salad over fries or cream-based soup, and limit or eliminate sweets. Ask your physician for guidance if you need to lose more than a few pounds. Two out of three Texans are obese, and doctors want patients to trim down for their long-term health.

Keep your appointments: Schedule your physical, your colonoscopy, your eye exam, your teeth cleaning, or whatever else you are due to undergo. Just like we’re supposed to maintain our cars, such regular health care appointments can ensure good health — or catch potential problems early.

Stop smoking: As many as 24,000 people die in Texas every year because of tobacco. And the smoke harms people nearby too: Secondhand smoke is tied to infant death syndrome, asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia in young children, and lung, head, and neck cancers, and heart disease among adults. Talk to your physician about tools to help you quit using tobacco.

Know your body: Has that mole changed? Are you suddenly not sleeping, or repeatedly feeling unusual pain? That persistent headache might be a sign of something serious. Do you faithfully conduct regular self-breast examinations? If something’s different, TALK TO YOUR PHYSICIAN. “My best information as a doctor is what my patients tell me about what they’re feeling,” said Dr. Curran. You can be your best advocate for your health: Get involved.

Action plans/tip sheets — TMA and the American Medical Association (AMA) present "AMA Healthier Life StepsTM," practical resources for making positive, coordinated lifestyle changes. Patients can identify and change specific behaviors with these four action plans:
Progress tracking calendar – Patients can use these tracking calendars to track their whether they are meeting their health goals:

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