Why Do People Avoid Medical Care?

There is little in life more important than your health. How we take care of ourselves can be a major factor in how long we live, the quality of our life, and how well we can function on the job.

When we don’t feel well, and are unable to correct the problem ourselves, most of us head for the doctor. However, no matter how badly they may be doing, some people simply refuse to seek medical attention. This seems grossly illogical: in many cases, not getting treatment can lead to the condition worsening and possibly even becoming fatal.

Here are some reasons why some people do not seek medical attention when they should:

Denial

Some people have been raised to just tough things out when not feeling well. Consequently, they are less likely to seek help when they are out of sorts.

Cost

If you don’t have insurance, medical care can be quite costly. Even the actual doctor’s appointment can be beyond some people’s capacity to pay, let alone prescriptions, and any follow-up.

Gender

Compared to women, men overwhelmingly avoid the doctor until a situation arises where they feel genuinely compelled to make an appointment. There are various theories about why, the main being that after entering adulthood, women have regular gynecological visits, while men do not have an equivalent.

Time

Some people claim that they just don’t have time to see a doctor. That may be true, but they really need to make time when their health is the issue.

Fear

A select few fear doctors and medical treatment in general. Others may be afraid of what the doctor will say about their current condition (e.g. it might be cancer).  The latter does not make any logical sense; if a condition is potentially quite serious, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

How to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Few people look forward to a doctor’s appointment, but whether you are there for an annual check-up or because of nagging problem, it is important to make the most of your time there. Many doctors can only afford 10-15 minutes with a patient, so it is a good idea to know what you wish to communicate and do so as clearly as possible.

Here are some tips on how you can most effectively prepare for your next doctor’s appointment:

List Your Symptoms

Whenever you begin to feel unwell, start to make a detailed list of your symptoms. Also make note of anything else that seems relevant: loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, night sweats, insomnia, when you first started to feel pain and its degree of intensity, etc. Try to include dates and times where appropriate. Having this information can help your doctor not only determine the problem, but also at what stage it is at. That can be crucial for deciding on the right course of action.

Complete Any Pre-Appointment Tests

Doctors will sometimes ask patients to have certain tests done before they come in, as this often aids in the diagnosis. Make sure you have those tests done far enough in advance that the doctor has received the results in time for your appointment.

Do Some Advance Research

It can be helpful to do some online research about your symptoms. This will give you an idea of what the problem might be. However, in the end, your doctor is the professional and he or she will be the one to determine the treatment plan. When researching online, remember also that the people posting are rarely ones who received immediate relief of their symptoms. Your problem is likely not anywhere near as dire as negative online postings might lead you to believe.

Should You Be Able to Record Your Doctor’s Appointment?

Smartphones have made many aspects of people’s lives easier and they are an absolute boon for people whose memories are not so great. More than once, I have just taken a picture of a sign or a list that I need to reference later. Faster and easier than writing things down!

You can easily install dictation apps on your phone that allow you to leave messages to yourself or record conversations. People are also taking advantage of that technology to record their doctor’s appointments.

Some doctors have expressed discomfort with this. In theory, I’m not sure why. If anything, recording a conversation provides better assurance that the patient will follow directions correctly and, thus, benefit more thoroughly from their treatment.

Under Canadian law, it is legal to record someone without their consent, though what you do with that recording can potentially violate someone’s privacy if it is put online. There can be issues of privacy if you record people in the waiting room or near the receptionist as patient names and other information might be mentioned. However,  when you are with your own doctor, only your private information is discussed.

What doctors fear is not the risk of malpractice so much as a lack of trust from their patient. That can create a negative atmosphere. Also, some physicians worry about just where that audio could end up.

On the one hand, if they are not giving out inaccurate advice, there should be nothing to worry about, right? On the other hand, you don’t really want your doctor to be reticent. In order to receive effective treatment, patients should receive a physician’s full advice and that doctor should also not feel any hesitation when it comes to answering questions.

What is your take? Have you ever recorded a doctor’s appointment? Do you think that is your right as a patient? Let me know in the comments.

How Do You Deal With Stress?

Life in today’s world can be extremely stressful. Between our responsibilities on the job and at home, coupled with worries about money and the state of the world, one can spend a great deal of the day in a state of unease.  Constant stress can take a toll both physically and mentally, and we all need to find some time in our day to relax.

However, not all forms of relaxation are healthy. Alcohol and drug use may provide near-instant stress reduction, but they can also be quite bad for you in the long run. Ideally, you need to find a form of release that provides you with that needed sense of calm and balance, but does not also harm you in any way.

Fortunately, there are many ways to achieve this. Here are just a few:

Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine

These may provide a form of relief, however, like alcohol and drugs, they are ultimately more harmful than helpful.

Exercise

Physical activity is the body’s natural stress reliever. Even just walking for a few minutes a day can help. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day as this will also help you maintain a proper weight.

Journaling

Putting things down on paper can be very therapeutic. It allows us to relieve frustration in the moment, but also down the road. Chances are, when you look at what you wrote a few days after the fact, the situation will have either resolved itself or not proven to be such a big deal. That knowledge can help reduce the amount of stress you experience in future when faced with a similar dilemma.

Learn to Say “No”

Some people have helpful personalities. It provides them with a sense of joy and accomplishment to know that they are helping people solve their problems. Unfortunately, these same individuals can start to take on too much and that negatively impacts their ability to keep their own life in balance. If that is happening to you, don’t feel guilty about prioritizing yourself; say no, I’m sorry, I just can’t take that on right now.

Just How Important is Breakfast?

I recently posted about the upcoming changes to Canada’s Food Guide and that piece got me thinking about my own eating habits. In general, I’m pretty good about keeping everything balanced, though I probably succumb to the lure of junk food a bit too often.

However, one area in definite need of improvement is breakfast. I’m one of those people who is perpetually running late in the morning and given my duties, I absolutely need to be in on time at work. I have tried getting up earlier, but as I get older, my body is cooperating less and less. So, on those days when I am running late, breakfast usually doesn’t make the cut.

Of course, the old saying we know from childhood is “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I have always doubted that (supper is the most important for me because it is the most elaborate and tasty), but will confess that I do feel rather lethargic during the mornings where I skip that first meal. I’m also more likely to fortify myself with caffeine until I get some of that lunchtime protein.

Leaving aside the vitamins that quality breakfast foods provide (sorry, Sugar Smacks don’t qualify), there is apparently a definite cognitive benefit. Breakfast helps to get your glucose levels up where they should be and your brain functions improve as a result. That means better memory and concentration, as well as a more stable and consistent mood. Basically, breakfast helps your brain to wake up, and does a healthier job than that big mug of coffee.

People who eat a proper breakfast are also less likely to be overweight. That seems counter intuitive (you’re eating less, right?), but as your energy needs are being met, you are less likely to snack and eat junk food laced with sugar for a quick fix.

Canada’s Food Guide is Changing

If you grew up in Canada, you probably learned about Canada’s Food Guide in grade school. It has been the hallmark nutritional guide for this country’s citizens since its inception 75 years ago. While some changes have occurred since that debut, it is now undergoing a major revamp that will reflect the latest data regarding what constitutes a healthy diet.

Last updated seven years ago, the guide’s new edition still aims to influence Canadians to make the best choices, though there are some concerns that must be addressed. Specifically, people in the medical community feel that the current incarnation does not do enough to address the growing problems of obesity and illnesses brought about by inadequate or unhealthy diets.

Environmental sustainability and animal welfare will receive more emphasis, so those who support a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle will no doubt applaud news that the new version reportedly has a reduced emphasis on meat and milk. Also, as the country has become more diverse with a wide range of diets, the guide seems behind the times with its largely North American outlook on food choices.

One thing that might represent a major change in approach is the four food groups. These have been part of the guide for decades, but may no longer be used.

The current guide has also received much criticism for the amount of calories it encourages people to eat per day, so expect that to go down.

Something everyone seems to agree on is that the guide is simply too long and too involved. At six pages, it is not something easily condensed into a size that is easily carried. Also, people will be more likely to follow the recommendations if they are more straightforward and easier to implement.

Do you use Canada’s Food Guide to plan your meals? Or is it just a vague memory from your school days?

Have You Disposed of Your Old Medications?

I’m going to bet that none of us are great at cleaning out the medicine cabinet. While we are supposed to finish most prescriptions, most of us stop taking the drugs when we feel better. The bottle with the remaining pills goes into the medicine cabinet and sits there. Sometimes for years. We justify this by thinking, “If I feel sick again, I can just take these instead of seeing the doctor again and getting another prescription.”

Well, you can try that, but it’s not very smart. In fact, it can be downright dangerous not only for yourself, but for other people in the household.

Most pills have a definite shelf life. After a certain amount of time, they will not be nearly as effective. That next time you get sick and reach for that old bottle of pills, you might find out the hard way that the medication is now useless and you end up in worse shape because you didn’t see the doctor sooner.

You must also consider the danger to children and the elderly. Having old medications sitting around in unlocked cabinets provides temptations for kids and seniors with cognitive issues. They may think they are vitamins or candy, and the results could be tragic.

Do yourself a favour and collect any old drugs you have lying around and take them to a proper place for disposal (chances are your pharmacy offers this service). Don’t just flush them down the toilet or wash them down the sink as they can taint the water supply in ways that normal filtration cannot address.

If you must put them in the trash, mix the pills into something that no one would eat (e.g. used cat litter) and place them in a sealed bag. Then place this bag in a sealed garbage container. We don’t want animals getting sick on our old meds either.

Vets Now Part of the Opioid Problem?

Most everyone knows that opioid addiction is an increasing problem in many parts of the world and various steps are being taken. One of these is more closely examining the source of the drugs. Doctors that have been prescribing large amounts are being scrutinized more closely, and border officials are discovering new ways in which the pills are being smuggled in from overseas.

However, another type of doctor has become involved in such investigations and you probably weren’t guessing that it could be your local vet. Animals receive medication for pain just like humans do and, as it turns out, many of those drugs are identical, including opioids like fentanyl and hydromorphone.

Investigation has revealed that addicts in search of a fix are now taking wounded or otherwise ill pets to their vets eager to receive prescriptions for pain medication. However, they are instead ingesting the drugs themselves and ensuring a steady supply by “vet shopping.” Yes, just as addicts used to bounce from one doctor to another in search of what they desired, some individuals are doing the same with vets. Others are using the opportunity to sell the drugs to other addicts. As a result, authorities are finding animal medication circulating on the street.

This scheme is working because vets, unlike doctors, do not have restrictions placed on them when it comes to prescriptions. While many officials have expressed agreement for a plan to put restrictions on the way vets can write scripts, others are worried that animal pain management could also be compromised in the process.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever had to give a pet pain medication of the sort described above? Do you think there is a happy medium or do we need to place limitations on how vets operate in this area? Click the comment button and let us know!

Is It Time for Your Parent to Go Into Managed Care?

One of the certainties in life is that we will all age. Taking good care of your health will help to ease age-related mental and physical infirmities, but no matter what you do, the Grim Reaper will get us all in the end.

Prior to that, you may reach a point where independent living is no longer an option. This can be quite painful for yourself, and the discomfort is no less when we see a parent decline in this way.

Here are some signs that your parent(s) may no longer be capable of living on their own:

  • Home Safety. Is your parent having problems getting around in their home? As we age, our bones become more brittle, which means that a fall which would have little effect on a younger person could prove very serious for a senior. If the home has stairs, is the elderly person still able to safely navigate them?
  • Cognitive Impairment. Does your father or mother show signs of mental fogginess? Our memory does not work as well as it used to when we age, but if a person starts forgetting where they are going, the name of a family member, or how to get home, this is quite serious and can lead to accidents and even death.
  • Advanced Care Needs. We all want to be there for our parents and many adult children act as caregivers so that their parents do not have to go into managed care. However, being a caregiver is a major responsibility that can take a toll on a person if they do not have a sufficient degree of help and periodic breaks. A caregiver suffering from exhaustion and depression cannot properly look after themselves, let alone another human being.

If any of these issues are apparent, it is probably time to have a serious conversation with your family member. Putting someone into managed care can be a difficult decision, but, in the end, the right one.

Almost 50% of Canadians Will Develop Cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society issued a press release yesterday stating that almost one out of every two Canadians (49% of men and 45% of women) will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. On top of that, one out of every four will perish from that malignancy.

Those are very sobering statistics. The number of cancer deaths each year is on the rise and the disease is now the leading cause of death in Canada.

The cancer society “emphasizes that the rise in cancer cases is primarily being driven by an aging and growing population…an estimated 206,200 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and almost 90% of these cases will be among Canadians 50 years of age and older. As more people live into old age, the number of cancer cases will continue to rise.” About 90% of all cancer cases in 2017 will occur among people 50 and over.

The scourge of pancreatic cancer continues. Only 8% of those afflicted survive the disease, which will soon be the third largest cause of death among Canadians.

Is there a silver lining? It doesn’t seem like one is obvious beyond the fact that about half of all cancers are preventable.

However, as depressing as this news sounds, it is important to remember how far along we have come:

  • In the 1940s, the survival rate for cancer was 25%; it is now 60%.
  • Certain cancers, like thyroid and testicular, now have a five-year net survival of over 90%.
  • The CCS continues to aggressively target cancer and invested $40 million into cancer research in 2016.

You can do your part by financially supporting cancer research and living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a proper diet, and regular cancer screenings.

Cancer will touch our lives in one way or another, but you can help to reduce the suffering. Take the time to do the right thing for both yourself and your fellow Canadians.

Graphic showing normal and cancer cell division