beachlifeorganic - preventative healthcare

Preventative Health: Why You Should Call Your Doctor Before You Get Sick

A few months ago, I made an appointment with a new Primary Care Provider (PCP) for the first time in my adult life – because I was well, not because I was sick or looking for any answers to any one specific symptom. It was a great feeling to answer “Nothing at all” when the doctor sat down and asked “So, What’s bothering you today?” at the start of the appointment.

He was just as surprised as I was, that I was there.

& Then earlier this week, I went to see my Gynecologist for the first time in three years, not because of anything other than it was time to see her again, no symptoms, no problems, just a routine exam.

It was after this appointment, that this particular “wellness routine” got me thinking…. How many of us are actually pursuing any other type of preventative health care appointment regularly – before we’re sick?

Myself included.

I never used to seek out “health”care, unless I was sick.

beachlifeorganic - preventative healthcare

 

My whole life – a visit to the doctor typically involved routine vaccinations as a child, or me asking for an antibiotic due to a sore throat (presumably strep), me reporting urinary frequency & pain (confirmed UTI twice during my first year as a nurse with poor time management skills and inability to remember to drink water or use the bathroom during my 12 hour shifts), me complaining about my teenage acne to a dermatologist (& being placed on two prescriptions I never needed – Accutane & Doxycycline), & how could I forget the rash I couldn’t figure out on my own (cue my dramatic health story that lasted all of 2016.)

I always correlated a doctor’s office appointment with illness.

There’s a chance, if you’re in your young adult life, living in America, raised in the traditional, western, healthcare system – you most likely do too.

 

& Let’s not forget, I’m also a Nurse. An Emergency Room Nurse. I have always correlated the doctor to a very linear scenario. You go in with a problem and come out with a solution (typically involving a prescription medication).

It’s how I was trained, It’s how our system is set up.

 

I want us to break free from the norm.

 

What if more of us began seeking out answers to our HEALTH before illness became an issue?

What if we knew what our “baseline” looked like on paper via blood work when we were WELL so we could assess any patterns that may be developing, year after year? … Bringing to light: Slight abnormalities that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

What if we were ignoring the smallest of symptoms that a conversation with a trained professional or labwork may be able to diagnose and lifestyle changes may be able to reverse before anything developed into a bigger issue? … wouldn’t that be nice?

Don’t you want to prevent something bigger from happening to you?

It’s most likely why you’re here, and I want to congratulate you for taking this step.

It’s not easy taking charge of your own health – but it seems to me, you’re on the right track.

 

Preventative Health is about so much more than the day to day stuff.

You may already be drinking green smoothies daily, paying attention to the ingredients in your food, getting enough sleep and water everyday …. But how do you know for sure that you’re doing enough?

Even more so, how do you know that what you’re doing is actually working for your body?

Supplements, Herbs, Tonics, the like – all have effects on what’s going on inside our bodies. You should be evaluating them based on more than your stress levels, the quality of your sleep and how clear your skin is.

 

I want to encourage you to seek out a wellness visit.

 

Just like we’re supposed to go to the dentist every 6 months to get our teeth cleaned, evaluated by a doctor and PREVENT cavities or any larger issues from developing ….

Why don’t we focus on doing the same for the rest of our body?

I urge you to do so, soon.

 

The Goal: Preventative Health

Step One:

  • Establish care with a Primary Care Physician (PCP) that you trust. 
    • If you don’t have one, go online through your insurance company and figure out who’s covered in your area. Utilize google, yelp or online review databases like healthgrades to get a glimpse of your doctors track record before going into the office if you can.
    • If you don’t like them after the first visit, you can always change, it’s your right as a patient to feel safe with the doctor providing you with medical care.
    • If you have a little more time and money to spend, depending on where you live – I can’t recommend seeking out a functional medicine practitioner or Naturopath enough. They cost more, but they will also spend ALOT more time with you, test a larger panel of bloodwork, and approach your symptoms, treatment, & wellness, holistically and thoroughly. This is my favorite approach – but I know all too well how expensive it can be.
    • I’ve developed a list of providers reccomended by my community on instagram nationwide – I will be updating it regularly & as often as I can.
    • In the meantime, if there’s no one in your area – seek out care with a PCP, they’re widely available and covered by almost all insurance plans & it’s a great place to start, just to learn a little more about your body.

 

  • Schedule an annual exam or wellness visit every year.
    • These are typically covered by most insurance plans (with or without a copay) depending on your plan.

 

  • If you’re under the age of 30, they may say blood work is unnecessary, ask for it anyways.
    • If you tell them why you want it – they’ll most likely agree.
    • Advocating for yourself and explaining that you want to make sure everything is in balance because you’ve never had your blood tested before should be more than enough.
    • You typically can’t tell them what to order, that’s the downfall. Trust that the basic panel will be “enough” as a starting point for now.

 

  • Most evaluations + basic bloodwork on an annual exam should include the following:
    • VITAL SIGNS:
      • Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Respiratory Rate, and Oxygen Saturation
    • EKG:
      • a basic test to check the quality of the electrical rhythm of your heart (you’ll probably have to ask for this if you don’t have any family history or symptoms.)
    • BLOODWORK:
      • CBC – Complete Blood Cell Count
        • evaluates WBC (infection) as well as RBC, Hemoglobin & Hematocrit (significant for diagnosing anemia)
      • CMBP – Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
        • evaluates electrolytes such as Sodium, Potassium & Calcium, as well as kidney function, liver function and fasting glucose (blood sugar level).
      • Hgb A1C – Hemoglobin A1C
        • evaluates your risk of developing diabetes by measuring your average blood glucose level over a time frame of approx 3 months. This is a much better marker for diabetes risk than the glucose level included in the CMBP.
        • You want your level to be anywhere between 4-5.5. Anything greater than 5.6 may be diagnosed as “pre-diabetic” and anything above 6.5 is considered “diabetic”.
          • FYI: Diet and Lifestyle changes can significantly improve these numbers, but it’s necessary to discuss with your doctor whether or not they think medications are necessary in the meantime while getting your blood sugar back in balance through lifestyle. Untreated, long term hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) can be extremely dangerous and needs to be watched closely.
      • TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
        • This is typically the only thyroid test most PCPs will run, if it’s abnormal, they’ll look into it further – but at least it’s a starting point.
          • FYI: if your number is close to being out of range but still considered “normal” within range. Consider getting a second opinion and having a functional medicine doctor or naturopath take a closer look.  My friend Carly Johnson Brawner @frolicandflow is a great resource on this & openly talks about her journey with Hashimoto’s disease and her path through the healthcare system.  You can read her story here: My Hashimoto’s Success Story, Part 1.
      • Lipid Panel
        • This will evaluate your total cholesterol level in correlation to your HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
          • FYI: The science around cholesterol is evolving rapidly and it’s no longer considered as “dangerous” as it once was. It’s still good to know your numbers, but be aware that things such as chronic inflammation and high blood sugar have also been found to be contributors to heart disease and stroke risk as equivalently as cholesterol was assumed to be the main culprit previously.
          • also, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. I highly recommend you read this article by Dr. Mark Hyman if you don’t believe me: Why eating fat doesn’t make you fat.
      • HIV screening
        • This doesn’t need much of an explanation. If you’re sexually active, you should know whether or not your HIV +, for your own health as well as your partner/s you may be putting at risk.

 

  • Additional Testing Some Providers May Include:
    • Vitamin D
      • A fat soluble vitamin that is converted to a hormone within our bodies that allows for regulation of blood pressure, inflammation, brain function, mood, and density of our skeletal structure.
      • It’s stored in the liver and fatty tissues. That being said, higher body fat percentage may put you at risk for deficiency as the fat tissue has the ability to absorb it and prevent it from being used by our bodies, according to Dr. Axe.
      • Common causes of deficiency have been linked to a lack of sun exposure (over use of sunblock) blocking the process of naturally converting sunlight absorption through our skin. I’ll write more about this soon.
    • Vitamin B12
      • Responsible for your mood, energy levels, neurotransmitter functions, memory, heart, digestion … the list goes on and on. B12 deserves an entire blogpost to itself. Dr. Axe has a great article on this as well.
      • I personally feel that these are two of the most important micronutrients in our bodies and the majority of us are deficient for multiple reasons. Most providers are now routinely screening for these, before they draw your blood, ask if it can be included.

 

REMEMBER – It never hurts to ask – the worst they can say is NO.

Your doctor may refuse, but if you have previously had lab-work somewhere else that showed you were deficient, that’s all you need to say to ensure that your doctor is re-evaluating your levels. Especially if you’re supplementing.

For me, finding out I was deficient in both of these nutrients was life changing and learning this information allowed me to start supplementing with the appropriate supplements & dose in order to help get my body back in balance.

 

Want More?

Laura and I talked all about this same topic discussing what true preventative health should look like  in episodes one, two and three of the CriticalConversationsPodcast. & I explain why I’m so passionate about it all in episode one.

Next up – I’ll be tackling your questions in a Q&A post from all the questions I collected from this community on instagram earlier this week. Please don’t hesitate to comment below as well, i’d be happy to add your question to the next post!

Let’s seek out answers to our health, before it’s too late.

Helping you prevent illness is why I created this website & community – now all I ask, is that you show up & do this for you.

 

x, bri

@beachlifeorganic