I believe that medicine’s potential is much more than the version we see in the world today. A doctor should be an educator with the goal of bringing patients to a place of deeper understanding of who they are in the world. To me, medicine is ultimately about self-empowerment through self-knowledge and growth.
Don’t freak out! You had a good excuse. And we can get caught up! COVID trends are encouraging:
only 40 cases all week in the county!
less than 300 new cases daily average in the whole state!
less than 30,000 new cases daily (7 day average) on the national level!
predictions are for persistence in these trends
So the doctor’s office, just like the country, is open again for normal-ish business (no mask mandate doesn’t mean mask wearing doesn’t make good sense in certain scenarios). Now is a good idea to look at those screening tests that you missed last year.
In an effort to make up for lost time, I thought I’d give you my strongest four take-away points from a general check up visit.
So let’s get started with our simulated check up!
Usually we get a quick set of vital signs… not a lot has changed…
And a quick blood draw is helpful… you’re always so brave…
But seriously, here are 4 thoughts to whet your healthcare appetite…
1. Cancer Screening: This is a big topic at check ups. There was a notable change in a key recommendation recently. An influential evidence-based task force on preventative practices is recommending that the age to start screening for colon cancer be changed from age 50 to age 45. That can take several forms:
stool sample looking for occult blood once a year or
stool sample looking for DNA changes every few years or
colonoscopy every 5 to 10.
2. Cardiovascular health is the second major topic at a physical. Yes, it matters what your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are doing. But what about your social connection? Did you know that having a community that cares about you and that you care about is the wildcard with cardiovascular health. The people in blue zones (areas of exceptional longevity) have a lot of the same genetic predisposition as people who die young, but they also have protective social structures. Heart and connection! Makes sense.
We really do get by with a little help from our friends.
3. Psychological check in. Checking in on mental health is an important part of the physical. What a year for that! Let’s review the lessons of this year, a year of uncertainty and danger. Our mandate was (and is) to embrace the chaos and embrace the imperfection. We will continue to live with risk, and we always have. The goal is to have as many moments free of fear as possible in every single day despite our challenges. To not be overly cautious but at the same moment to be in full acknowledgment of the risk is the middle place. You’ve heard me mention the middle before. It’s where balance lives and where health is nourished.
4. Your involvement in disease detection is huge. The advice I love to give to patients at a physical is to embrace their role in early diagnosis. When done right, it’s stronger than screening tests, I think. One of my first patients had a personal meditation practice. I asked her in what ways she felt meditation impacted her heath. She described the ability to recognize and register symptoms early and also the ability to navigate the fear to face what she was sensing. Exercising clear thinkingis a massive aid to health. You definitely don’t need to be a meditation expert to maximize your role in partnering in your healthcare. Just learn to listen well and practice checking in with yourself. Do things that enhance your clarity (exercise, meditation, good diet, sunshine). Avoid things that hinder it (recreational drugs, excessive screen time). It’s really partnering with your own body and learning what its language is. We can help you understand its messages.
The doctor’s role
We carefully consider how best to approach our role in partnering with you on your health. A doctor can make a mistake of making too much of nothing or of not seeing an important issue that needs attention. We pledge to open space in the interaction with our patients to find a middle place between these two possible errors. It takes time and careful communication. Mutual trust doesn’t hurt. Deliberated medicine is the goal, where we take on all we need to do but nothing that we don’t. Our main tool is clear thinking as well.
Well, here’s to you and your continued efforts with all you wish to accomplish. It’s a privilege to provide care for you.