To your health: Do something that usually gets overlooked to improve health

By Alfred Casale - To Your Health | July 18th, 2017 6:00 am

I saw something truly remarkable early on Sunday morning while driving to Scranton to make rounds.

There’s a gas station on the corner of Meadow Ave. and Moosic St. Their air pump is near the corner where I make a left. A man was … wait for it … checking the pressure of his spare tire!

Now we all know that this is the right thing to do — a smart thing to do — but when have you ever actually done it?

It got me thinking about all those things that we all would quickly acknowledge were important but somehow never get around to. But ah!, when you do, for whatever reason, actually get one done, don’t you feel incredibly righteous and praiseworthy? And if you’re like me, you probably look around for someone to acknowledge how totally excellent you are and that yet again you’ve proven that you are, after all, one of the best people.

So, when it comes to health and wellness, what makes the list? Here’s my first, somewhat random, compilation of those things that we should do, but often avoid, delay or forget:

Know your family health history. Make sure your doctor knows of your ancestors’ issues so she can help you deal with any personal predispositions and head problems off before they become big.

Take care of your teeth. We’re becoming increasingly aware of the effect oral health has on overall wellness. Brush, floss and see a dentist regularly.

Have an Advance Directive and name a Health Care Proxy. Outlining your thoughts and wishes about what to do and who should decide about life and death issues if you can’t decide for yourself is smart — and is a wonderful gift to those who love you and may someday be placed under great stress while dealing with your situation.

Schedule that colonoscopy, or that mammogram, or that PAP smear, or that prostate exam. Each of us should have a conversation with our health care provider about what tests, studies or exams are appropriate at our stage of life. But once you’ve agreed on what should be done, do it.

Get vaccinated. Flu, hepatitis, shingles, whooping cough, tetanus — all vaccines that adults should keep up with. Again, talk to your doctor; make a plan; keep to it.

Learn CPR, especially if someone in your family or household has heart disease. How awful if they need you and you don’t know what to do. And while you’re at it, learn the Heimlich maneuver; it works well to save choking victims.

Wash your hands: often and long enough. Cover your coughs.

Use sunscreen, way more often that you do now. Reapply it. Wear a hat. Get a whole-body skin check once in a while. Don’t ignore that mole that has changed. Sun is wonderful, skin cancer isn’t.

Walk. Climb the stairs. Do something. Exercise doesn’t have to mean a gym membership. Activity counts. Now don’t get me wrong, vigorous exercise has all sorts of advantages, but don’t ignore the benefits of less intense, and easier-to-fit-in activities. Get moving.

Go to sleep. Turn off the TV; put down your phone. Don’t fool yourself; nobody does well with five hours of sleep for long. If you snore, or if your loved ones tell you that you stop breathing when you’re asleep, look into a sleep study. Sleep apnea kills.

Wear a seat-belt … always. Make everyone else wear theirs. Stop looking at your phone when you’re driving. Slow down. Pay attention. Pull over if you’re too tired.

What is your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, body mass index, heart rate? If you don’t know, find out. It matters.

If you have diabetes, when was your last eye exam, foot exam, blood test? Are you testing your sugars often enough? Really? Come on.

You know what to eat. It’s impossible to live in 2017 and pretend that you never heard that chips, soda, ice cream, cake, tons of red meat, processed foods, candy, fast food, portions the size of your head, cheese sauce, energy drinks and fatback are not health foods.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, fat in moderation, lots of water … stuff you cook … eat that.

Don’t run with scissors.

And please quit smoking. Today.

I know most of this stuff isn’t easy, but you must admit, it is worth it. Pick something from the list, and do it this week; and once done, you deserve a bit of congratulations, celebration and perhaps a little treat. We’ll all know who you are; you’ll have that righteous air of superiority about you.

Alfred Casale To Your Health Casale To Your Health

By Alfred Casale

To Your Health

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]