When I started this blog, I said it would be a positive, quiet place to visit. Notes from the life of a working writer, and a busy wife and mother. Occasionally, I’ve veered into health “nags,” not so odd because all three of my offspring are pursuing careers in medicine and medical research.
This is another one of those nags.
At the beginning of March, my husband went to his doctor for a routine annual physical (at the urging of myself and the kids). Other than a few random aches and pains that come with turning 55 this summer, he had no physical complaints. He stays very active with his woodworking and his chores around our property, in addition to spending an hour or so every day taking care of his aging mother. He doesn’t smoke or drink, though he does love to eat, and could stand to lose maybe twenty pounds.
His blood pressure was somewhat high during the physical. His cholesterol was just a little high (according to arbitrary and somewhat arguable modern standards). His G.P. recommended a stress test because of a family history of heart disease. John saw a cardiologist last Monday for that stress test. On Friday, he was admitted to the local heart hospital where he had a stent put into his left anterior descending artery, which was 80 to 90 percent blocked. He has some blockage elsewhere, but that was the worst place. He will now be on medications and a routine of regular medical check-ups for the rest of his life. Again, there were no noticable symptoms of his condition; this was all discovered during a regular exam.
I’ve posted before about how important it is to have annual physical examinations — pap smears and mammograms for women, PSA screenings for men, colonoscopies for anyone over 50 or with a family history of colon cancer. John’s experience last week — and my own last year, in which a precancerous polyp was found during a routine screening — only reinforce my point. Preventative medicine is so much more effective than trying to treat a condition after the fact.
My daughter, the almost-doctor, quotes that we are very good in America at treating illnesses — but we’re not very good at preventing them. There are a lot of reasons for that. Stress, lack of exercise and poor diets (all of which I’m guilty of, myself). Lack of time (at least in our minds) for doctor visits. Finances. I’m self-employed, as is my husband. We know all about how difficult it is to find affordable insurance, and how frightening it is to face medical expenses if a problem is found during an exam. (Don’t get me started on heartless, profit-obsessed insurance companies who finance their CEOs’ mansions and private jets by doing everything they can to keep from paying benefits to their customers, many of whom struggle just to pay the premiums, and who are afraid to make a claim for fear of their rates going up, their coverage being denied, or being trapped in place because of those convoluted “previously existing condition” clauses — oh, wait. This is a quiet, positive blog, and there goes my own blood pressure!).
Once again, I’m urging everyone to take care of your health. John and I are switching to a more heart-healthy diet with more fresh fruits and vegetables and less sodium, and we’re both committing to taking off a few pounds. We’d both be healthier twenty pounds lighter. If you smoke, please consider quitting. And make time for your annual physical exams. If you don’t have insurance, there are programs to help you afford them. It takes a little research, or a call to the doctor’s office for advice.
Let’s get better about preventing illnesses so we don’t have to worry quite as much about trying to cure them.