Healthcare Network offers health maintenance tips for National Self-Check MonthFeb 14, 2023 08:00AM ● By Kathy Montgomery
Healthcare Network licensed practical nurse checking patient vitals. Photo courtesy of Healthcare Network.
February is National Self-Check month, designed to remind us that like keeping an automobile fine-tuned, we have a role in our own health maintenance. Being aware of our bodies helps us know what is normal and what changes might need to be evaluated by a doctor.
“In many cases, early detection of a health change can result in better long-term outcomes when the change signals illnesses like cancer, heart problems, and other issues, many of which can be treated,” says Dr. Corin DeChirico, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Healthcare Network.
DeChirico, who runs the clinical programs for Healthcare Network after more than 25 years as a healthcare clinician, leader and physician executive, indicates the first step in a proper self-check is to understand your history.
“One of the best ways to know what to look for is awareness of any risk factors or family history that might put you at higher risk for certain health conditions,” DeChirico adds.
To get into a routine of self-checks and be able to recognize problems, it is important to begin them when you are feeling healthy, so you can be aware of what is normal for you.
DeChirico recommends the following nine basic checks to help you keep track of your health:
1. Take your temperature. Check your temperature when you are feeling good, so you know what is normal for you. Temperatures outside of your normal range often indicate illness.
2. Perform testicular and breast checks. Self-examinations are important to discover lumps or swelling that may indicate cancer.
3. Check your heart rate. Your resting heart rate in the morning gives you an indication of general wellness and depends on your age and fitness. Tracking it every morning for a week can help determine your usual rate.
4. Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk for strokes, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney disease.
5. Many blood and swab tests can be done at home and can indicate cholesterol levels, thyroid issues, urinary tract infections, and strep throat.
6. Blood sugar levels can be tested with home blood glucose tests. Checking your blood sugar levels is important because diabetes can lead to severe medical complications.
7. Take waist fat measurements. Too much fat around your waist can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. If your waist is 37 inches or more for men and 31.4 inches or more for women, you may be at risk.
8. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer you can screen for yourself. Look for new growths or moles that have changed, bleed, itch, burn, or crust over. If you are fair skinned, have family history, or spend a lot of time in the sun, you may also want to get checked annually by a dermatologist.
9. Check your skin, hair, and nails. Subtle changes can suggest things happening internally, nutritional imbalances, or more serious issues such as a thyroid problem. Excessively dry skin, rough scaly patches, or redness could be eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea and can offer clues about how your digestion and detox systems are functioning.
While it is beneficial to keep an eye on your health, it is also important to have a good relationship with a primary care provider. A knowledgeable health care professional can consider your risk factors and help you maintain a complete picture of your overall health.
Kathy Montgomery has been writing for more than 30 years about Southwest Florida and the interesting people who live in the region.