By Tom Neal, CEO of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital
We’ve now officially entered 2022, and after a two-year span we’ll never forget, we are in a place of looking forward. Because of all we’ve been through with the pandemic, the way we used to think about New Year’s resolutions seems quaint. Maybe we would intend to lose weight, give our smartphones a rest, or quit a harmful habit, like smoking.
Now, it seems life has taken on deeper meaning as our psyches and bodies have been tested — through social isolation, experiencing many types of losses, and more. Even though resolving to live more healthfully may still be a popular intention, I encourage you to think about it just a bit differently.
We now know that supporting our health in multiple ways strengthens us, and so does considering our doctor as a personal health coach of sorts. I’ve talked in past columns about the fact that our physical, mental, and spiritual health are undoubtedly intertwined. To that end, we should look at 2022 as a grand opportunity to reconnect with our primary care physicians if we haven’t had a wellness visit lately — something that became common as the pandemic grinded on.
Many of us admit to putting off routine screenings over the course of the pandemic, simply because we didn’t want to put ourselves at risk for getting sick with the virus, but as I’ve said in this column previously, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital (HCH) is actually the cleanest, safest place you could have received care over the last two years. I’m proud of how every member of our hospital family has pivoted whenever protocols changed, which was often.
It’s time now though, to get back on track for 2022 with your preventive screenings and wellness visits. They are as important as seeing a specialist or having an urgent health need addressed.
Since patients are considered partners with their physicians now, there is important information for you to know that not only helps you keep up with caring for yourself between visits to your doctor, this health data serves as a barometer that you and your doctor can review and discuss when it comes to your care going forward.
We call it “knowing your numbers.” There are five critical pieces of health information you should be familiar with that paint an accurate wellness portrait and serve to alert you to conditions that need treatment or risk factors you can pay attention to and work to lower.
These measurable pieces of data are your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose level, weight, and BMI, or body mass index. Having a healthy blood pressure is important in terms of lowering your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems, while keeping your cholesterol in check also reduces the chance of these same health crises. As you’ve likely learned, there is “good” and “bad” cholesterol, and talking to your doctor about these numbers allows you to determine whether you should increase your exercise, tweak your diet, or manage your stress more effectively, among other things.
Your weight and BMI also play into your overall health greatly. Talk to your doctor about whether you’re in a normal weight range for your height and build, and what you can do about it if you’re not. Your BMI is a calculation that’s based on height and weight — this tool also helps your doctor understand whether you’re in the proper weight range for your age and body type.
Since rates of type 2 diabetes are soaring, knowing your blood glucose level is critical, not just if you live with diabetes, but to learn if you may be one of the 88 million American adults who have prediabetes (more than 1 in 3 people). Many of those with prediabetes have no idea they have it, so this is a prime example of knowledge being power.
Your 2022 plan for good health should also include scheduling your mammogram and Pap test if you’re a woman (talk to your provider about when and how often you should get screened, depending on your age and other factors), and a prostate exam if you’re a man. Both men and women should discuss when they are due for a colonoscopy with their doctors.
Remember, you’re not alone in keeping on top of all of this. Your primary care physician is a valuable asset here and is ready to counsel you about your health, discuss your family and individual health history, and answer all of your health-related questions and concerns. Preventive care is an indispensable pillar when it comes to preserving your good health.
My wish for everyone in our community is a 2022 that sees you enjoying the best of health, taking great care of yourself, and enjoying all that this special place we call home offers. Everyone at HCH is ready to care for you not just this year, but always.
Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.