By Charles E. Crutchfield II, MD and Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD
Summer is coming, which is a great time to remind ourselves how to make the most out of summer and the most out of life. Here are a few tips to maximize your health, which is a necessary part of maximizing your summer fun:
Get an annual physical examination.
Make sure it is from a doctor you are familiar with, and try to maintain continuity of care by scheduling an examination with the same doctor every year. The examination should include the standard blood tests for your age including, but not limited to, the evaluation of blood sugar, thyroid, and cholesterol.
Your physical examination should also evaluate blood pressure and weight, include an auditory examination of your heart and lungs, and include a full skin exam. Women should schedule a Pap smear and mammogram. If age-appropriate, men should have a prostate evaluation.
If you have not had a general medical examination in the past one year, it is time. Ask your doctor how often you should schedule future examinations. Don’t forget to also ask your doctor about planning to evaluate your hearing, vision, and dental health.
Develop a planned calendar, with your doctor, of when you should have regular medical visits and when specific age-based procedures should be done. Don’t leave your doctor’s office until you have this plan.
(Photo provided by Dr. Crutchfield)
Keep total cholesterol below 200.
A healthy cholesterol level can be achieved through diet, exercise, and/or, if necessary, prescription medications. Have your doctor review your ratio of HDL/LDL cholesterol with you, too.
Keep blood pressure below 125/75.
While 125/75 is commonly recognized as appropriate, your doctor may recommend a slightly different number. This can be achieved with diet, exercise, and, if necessary, prescription medications.
Keep blood sugar below 100.
Blood sugar can be maintained through diet, exercise, and, if necessary, prescription medications.
Keep weight less than 20 percent of average of your height.
For most men, making this average means keeping weight under 200 pounds, and for most women, it’s under 170 pounds. Your doctor can give you the exact weight figure most appropriate for you.
Manage your medicines.
Review your medications at every doctor’s visit to make sure the medication is still the best and most appropriate for you and is not interacting with other medicines. Review any side effects that could occur from any combination of medicines you are currently or may begin taking.
Stay Active: Exercise at least 20 minutes per day, four to five times per week.
The benefits of regular exercise are plentiful. It reduces cholesterol, improves arthritis, reduces gouts, prevents heart disease, helps diabetes, promotes circulation, improves energy, and improves mental ability.
Choose an activity that fits into your lifestyle like gardening, walking, biking, swimming, raking leaves, cutting the grass, washing windows, running and so on. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start for just five minutes a session and slowly build up. Don’t be afraid to locate a personal trainer to get things going if you need a bit of structure for motivation.
Keep an eye on depression.
Make an agreement with yourself that you will monitor your mental well-being. If you feel sad or blue for more than two or three days, call your doctor and talk about it. Depression is treatable, and suicide is almost 100 percent preventable, with help.
Meet with a dietician and find out how you can enjoy meals rich in vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
Do not smoke.
Probably the worst health habit, smoking leads to more preventable health problems than any other single item. If you need help quitting smoking, talk to your doctor.
Bonus tips to help you engage in good preventive health measures:
- Do not keep guns accessible to those who may misuse them. Gun safety is critical, especially in relation to loaded guns that could lead to the death of one’s children, grandchildren, spouse, or household residents or visitors. If guns are in the house, keep them unloaded with ammunition in a separate place. Better yet, keep them in a secure safe.
- Practice safe driving habits. Wear seatbelts at all times in the car, no matter what speed you are going, and do not take them off until the car is at a dead stop. Never text and drive!
- Do not drink or use drugs while driving, fishing, swimming, or boating.
- If you think you have a problem with drinking or drugs, talk to your doctor for help.
- Use smoke and radon detectors in your home. Remember to check the batteries twice per year.
- Always wear a safety helmet while riding a motorcycle or bicycle.
- Practice safe sex. Employ a barrier method to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your doctors for details.
- To help prevent falls, make sure hallways and stairwells are well lit and free of clutter, with no loose rugs. Make bathrubs safe with handrails and no-slip grips on steps and in bathtubs.
- Don’t forget to have a “health” checkup with your attorney, too. If you are on a budget, there are also online sites that can also help with the following items:
Appoint a healthcare and durable power of attorney so if you are incapacitated, this person can make healthcare and other decisions for you. Develop a healthcare directive and share it with your family members. This document will clearly tell people what decisions for your medical care you would want made if you were not able to communicate them.
Make sure your will is up-to-date. Your will should be reviewed every two years or with any major life-event change.
Spring has sprung, so take this “Summer’s Comin’ To-Do List” and start punching them out. You and your family will feel and be better off for it.
Charles E. Crutchfield II, MD, is a graduate of University of Minnesota Medical School and has been a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist for over 45 years in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He has been the president of numerous organizations, has served as assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, and has won numerous lifetime achievement and community service awards.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, is a practicing dermatologist in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (Crutchfield Dermatology). He is a graduate of the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine and is a professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School.