Have you put your health on the back burner recently? It’s time to change that. Taking care of your body and mind means a lower risk for developing certain life-threatening illnesses. It means a better quality of life. You’ll also see improvements in your mood and self-esteem.
When it comes to health, you do, therefore you are. Here are five ways you can take back control of your health.
1. Go to the Doctor’s Office
So many people wait until they’re sick to schedule an appointment with their doctor. However, you should be proactive about your health.
Yearly check-ups are key to good long-term health. And if you do get sick or notice changes in your body, don’t sit around googling symptoms online. Schedule an appointment to get the issue checked out.
It can be tempting to use the internet to diagnose yourself, and to try to figure out a treatment. However, your health is more complicated than that. Your doctor isn’t just jotting down a list of symptoms you mention in the office, and then make a diagnosis.
They check your vitals, look at family history, and order tests. They also check for potentially dangerous interactions between prescription drugs.
By visiting the doctor, you’ll learn whether or not you’re at risk for certain diseases. If you are, your doctor will provide you with recommendations on how to prevent that disease. Regardless of your age, or how healthy you are, it’s important to make time to go to the doctor’s office. Let the doctors do their jobs—they did an awful lot of studying just to help you.
2. Get Tested and Screened Regularly
Getting tested and screened for certain diseases should be a part of your health routine. This is especially true if you have a higher risk for a certain condition because of genetics. For example, if your mother was diagnosed with skin cancer, you may need to be screened more frequently. There are a number of tests that you should be getting regularly.
Many STIs don’t have symptoms but can spread between partners very easily. The truth is that STIs are very common, so if you’re sexually active, you should get tested—regardless of your age. There’s no reason to be embarrassed about getting tested, but if you are, there are ways to do so discreetly.
Thanks to the internet, at-home STI testing kits can be delivered straight to your door. The kits come with everything you need to test yourself. Once you’re done, you simply send the box back and wait for your results.
You might know this one by another name—pap smear. A cervical screening test checks the health of your cervix, in an attempt to prevent cervical cancer. The test looks for human papillomavirus (HPV) in your cells, which can turn into cervical cancer. You should start getting tested once you’re sexually active, or when you turn 21.
Most doctors recommend women start getting screened for breast cancer before they turn 40. With that said, how soon you get tested is also based on your family history. For example, if your mom had breast cancer when she was 35, you shouldn’t wait until your 40.
Even if breast cancer isn’t in your family’s history, you should do monthly self-exams. If you notice a lump, get it checked by a doctor immediately.
Examining yourself for skin cancer is crucial, especially since certain skin cancers can spread quickly through the body. Do screenings yourself between doctor appointments. In a well-lit room, take a look at your body for any suspicious moles or bumps.
When checking for skin cancer, use the “ABCDE rule,” to look for: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution. Do any of your moles stand out from the others? Are they larger? Have they been growing or changing month to month? If you notice any moles with these attributes, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.
3. Prioritize Sleep
By now, you probably know sleep is important. However, you may not know just how much it impacts your overall health. It doesn’t only boost your energy, it can improve your immune system and lower your risk of common health conditions. Unfortunately, one in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep, according to the CDC.
One impact of lack of sleep is that it wreaks havoc on the hormones that control your feelings of hunger. Too little sleep can increase the amount of fat your body stores, which could cause you to gain weight. Believe it or not, sleep deprivation can even impact your fertility. Different people have different sleep needs but shoot for at least seven hours a night.
If you’re struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, there are a few things you can try. Take a bath before bedtime to relax. If you usually exercise in the evening, switch to a morning workout schedule. Also, if you get hunger pangs that you can’t ignore right before bed, make your snack a small one. If sleeping is still difficult, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor.
4. Get Moving
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Not only can it make you stronger, but it can improve your mood, your sleep, and your overall health. If you want to take control of your health, create an exercise routine.
It may not be easy to start one if you’re not used to working out. But it’s definitely doable, and there are a variety of approaches you can take.
One way to make exercise a part of your life is to find something you actually like. It’s hard to force yourself to go to the weight room every day if you hate lifting weights. Once you’ve picked an activity, write it into your calendar. Think of it as an appointment. For example, you wouldn’t just skip a meeting with a co-worker, so don’t skip the appointment you’ve made with yourself.
If you’re still struggling to stick with your routine, invite friends to join you. Or consider signing up for a class that meets weekly to hold yourself accountable. Before long, you’ll have formed a healthy habit.
5. Maintain Relationships
Being healthy isn’t just about the body, it’s about your mental and emotional health as well. If there’s one thing people learned during the pandemic, it’s how important human connection is. According to research, social isolation and loneliness are linked to worse medical and mental health. In other words, spending quality time with family and friends is good for you.
Make time for your loved ones. Visit your family, grab lunch with your friends, or connect with people online. Now that the world is slowly getting back to normal, you might feel comfortable spending time with people in person. If not, consider using technology like FaceTime or Zoom to communicate.
These five ways to prioritize your health share a common theme. They all require you to be your own advocate. This means that you have to schedule your own appointments, ask questions, and make time for self-care. Give yourself permission to fight for your health.
Remember that you know yourself better than anyone. Find what works, and move on from what doesn’t. And always keep your doctor in the loop.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.