There’s a new show on Netflix called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. If you watch even one episode, you’ll probably get inspired to clean out your closet or maybe even get your whole house in order. Based on a best-selling book, the show is about getting rid of things that weigh you down, cause you stress, and prevent you from enjoying your life. It can be the same with your health.
Many of us put off addressing health issues, especially ones that are minor or that we feel we can live with. But if your knee hurts every time you walk down stairs, or you silently worry that you’ll get diabetes like your dad did at your age, you may be causing yourself unnecessary harm. You may be worrying for no reason, but you may also have good reason to worry. Either way it’s time you did something about it.
Find the right doctors and healthcare providers for you
Start by getting a good primary care provider (PCP), if you don’t already have one. Your PCP can be a family medicine or internal medicine physician, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. This is the healthcare provider that serves as your home base. They will help you manage the large majority of your health issues, and they can help you find the right specialist if you need one.
Depending on your health insurance plan, you may have direct access to specialist providers like dermatologists, cardiologists, or physical therapists, or you may need a referral from your PCP. Whatever the case, if you have health issues that may require a specialist, it is a good idea to start researching the ones in your area.
The relationship you have with any provider is important to your health, so don’t be afraid to shop around. The more comfortable you are with them, the more likely you are to ask for and get what you need.
Get your regular check ups scheduled
If you already have providers you love, ask yourself when the last time was that you saw them. You should see your PCP at least once a year for an annual check up. This is important even if you don’t have specific health concerns in mind. An annual exam will allow you and your doctor to establish rapport and a good baseline of health for you, if all is well. It is also an opportunity to catch any silent conditions you might have, like high blood pressure or diabetes.
Your PCP will also be able to tell you which screenings or vaccines you may need. Based on your sex, age, or medical history, you may be due for certain cancer screenings like a mammogram, colonoscopy, pap smear, or prostate exam. Or it may simply be time for a flu shot. Find out and you can get these set up in your calendar.
Be prepared for an emergency
It is important to have your providers in place before you have a serious medical issue or an emergency. If either of these happen, you will feel a whole lot better, and your care will likely be better, if someone who knows you can step in and help.
Once you have found your providers, go one step further and prepare your health history. Make a list of your providers with their contact information, share that information with a family member or confidant and keep it handy in case of an emergency. You should also prepare lists of your current medical conditions, medications, and allergies. The more information available to providers, the faster you can get the care you need.
Don’t wait to get your healthcare in order. Just like tidying your house, you shouldn’t wait until you trip and break your arm to declutter your floor.