Show Yourself Some Love
When was the last time you showed some appreciation to someone who has been there for you through thick and thin?
No, we’re not talking about your best bud or significant other. In this case, we’re talking about your body, inside and out. While you may not give much thought to its operation and ability to function on a regular basis, trust me—when things go haywire, all of a sudden it will be front and center in your mind.
That makes it all the more important that you do a little preventive maintenance to keep it running smoothly. When it comes to your health, a little care and attention can go a long way!
Step One—Learn About Your Health
Let’s start with the basics. How much information do you have about your own health history?
Here are some essential facts you should know: any past illnesses or diseases you may have had, any hospitalizations, and all allergies, including medications, foods, and environmental.
If you don’t have the information at hand or aren’t able to access it from your parents or other caregivers, you can still compile a list by reaching out to the doctor, hospital or clinic who handled your healthcare when you were underage.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, state and federal laws allow you to have direct access to your medical record information, and while there may be a fee to scan or make photocopies, it’s worth the cost to have it done. The information provides any healthcare provider you may see in the future to have important information about you that may have a bearing on your health or medical care going forward. If you’re changing doctors, you can also sign an authorization that will allow the medical records department to send it to your new provider, generally at no charge.
What if you can’t get your history from any of those sources? Start with what you remember: what your illness was or what symptoms you had, and, if you were hospitalized, what city and state you were living in at the time. Do certain foods make you sick or have you had an allergic response to any materials, medications or drug bites or stings? Note that as well. Every little bit helps.
Once you have the information, what do you do with it? Create a summary of all the information, using a tool like My Family Health Portrait. You can also save it to the cloud as a document file so you can access it as needed. Most importantly, keep the information secure from unauthorized access by following the tips listed here.
Along with the historical information already mentioned, include the following: the names and contact information for any healthcare providers you’re seeing now or had seen in the past, medication and supplements you’re taking, and your emergency contacts (a family member or friend). If you have medical insurance, include the name, policy number and contact information.
Last but not least, you’ll want a list of immunization you’ve received along with the dates. It’s important to keep up with vaccinations not only because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time but also because you’re at risk for different diseases as an adult, says the CDC.
- Not sure if you need a vaccine or which ones you need? Use the Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool (also in Spanish).
- Wondering what getting vaccinated will cost you? Check out How to Pay for Vaccines (also in Spanish).
- Ready to roll up your sleeve but you’re not sure where to go for your vaccine? Here’s information on how to find vaccines in your area (also in Spanish).
Step Two—Gather Your Family’s Health History
Once you have your own health history, gather as much information as you can about the health of other family members, such as major illnesses or diseases, and date and cause of death. Go beyond your parents and siblings, and include your grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and cousins.
Why do you need this? Some diseases may have a genetic component which can put you at greater risk of developing a particular disease, also called having a genetic predisposition or genetic susceptibility. Having that knowledge, however, gives you a chance to potentially shift the odds in your favor by following a healthier lifestyle and getting tested as needed, says the CDC. Knowledge is power, and knowing the health history of relatives can make a big difference.
Again, if you can’t talk with a family member about the health history of your relatives, do your best to recall anything you might have heard about them. If you were adopted, there are still ways you can learn about the health history of your biological parents. You can also ask your healthcare provider if you should undergo genetic testing to discover if you are at risk for a specific disease or condition. If you don’t have access to your family medical history, be open and honest with your health practitioners about it.
Step Three—Follow the Recommended Screening and Check-Up Schedule
At this point, you have gathered a solid amount of information about your health history and that of your relatives. It’s a good starting point, but if you really want to show your body some love, you need to be proactive about getting check-ups and screening tests as needed.
As a rule, you should visit your dentist once or twice every year for an exam and a dental cleaning. This isn’t just about having a dazzling white smile. One cavity left untreated can lead to an abscess under the gum, which can then spread through your body. Poor dental hygiene can also increase the risk of developing other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
A thorough dental exam includes a cleaning by a dental hygienist followed by a checkup of your mouth by the dentist. They dentist may also recommend specific x-rays on certain visits to check your overall oral health or to identify cavities or other tooth problems.
If you are lucky enough to have 20/20 vision and no health problems such as diabetes, the general recommendation is a complete eye exam every five to 10 years: once in your 20s and twice in your 30s. But if you have vision problems or wear contacts or glasses, you should have your vision checked every two years or more often as recommended by your provider.
Of course, if you have an eye injury, infection or pain, start experiencing unusual flashes, floaters or patterns of light in your field of vision, call your ophthalmologist ASAP, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
A vision screening generally includes:
- Distance vision test, also called a “visual acuity” test to check how well you can see things far away.
- Close-up vision test to test you well you can see text up close.
- Color blindness test to determine if you see colors differently than most people or have trouble telling certain colors apart.
You may also be tested for astigmatism, which causes generally blurry vision and makes it hard to see at night.
Not sure who does what at a vision check?
- An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor specializing in preventing, diagnosing, and treating eye disease. They provide complete eye exams, prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses, and perform eye surgery.
- An optometrist is a health care professional who specializes in vision problems and eye disorders and can provide many of the same services as ophthalmologists.
- An optician is a health professional who is trained to fill prescriptions for eyeglasses, fitting you for frames, preparing your eyeglasses and providing contact lenses.
General health checkup and routine screening
A health checkup usually includes body mass index (BMI), skin checks, cholesterol and blood pressure screening, eye exams, immunizations and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. There are specific recommendations for women and men age 18 to 39 that your doctor will discuss with you.
Your healthcare provider may also order some common blood tests: a complete blood count (CBC). blood chemistry tests, blood enzyme tests and blood tests for heart disease risk. Depending on your sex, lifestyle, health history and that of your family, other tests or exams may also be recommended.
This is also a good time to share with your doctor any physical, mental or emotional concerns you may or ask for advice on improving your overall health. It’s the only body you have, so you might as well take good care of it and show it some love!