Monday, November 5, 2007

Know Thy Enemy

A friend of mine, now in his early 40s, told me recently that the last time he’d been to the doctor for a physical was just before he went into college.

And while he may have been in perfect health before going in, I’m pretty sure that, like many of us, he probably did some major damage to himself between his freshman and senior years. Tack on another 20 years of aging and there’s bound to be some wear and tear on the body.

The thing is, he was telling me this while residing as a guest in our heart unit. He has high blood pressure – and knew it – but chose not to do anything about it. Until, that is, he had to drive himself to the emergency department with chest pains.

This isn’t unusual. Dr. Julie Price (pictured at left), a family physician in Hobe Sound, said she sees the phenomenon all the time. There are people who don’t want to go to the doctor or get screenings and tests that will tell them if there are problems. And if there are, they simply don’t want to take the medications that will help solve those problems.

“My goal as a doctor is to try to prevent my patients from getting sick and dying,” Dr. Price said. “I want to offer them screenings and preventative methods so we can treat them.”

As an example, Dr. Price said that if I have my cholesterol level tested and the numbers come back high, I can still lower those levels to decrease my risk of heart disease or stroke 30 to 40 percent by treating the condition with diet, exercise, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, and taking statin drugs.

There are all kinds of screenings and tests out there that will help doctors determine whether something’s wrong with you or not. That includes everything from mammograms to colonoscopies, blood sugar levels and pap smears.

Ultimately, the goal is to find out if you have a health problem before you know it. Because the sooner you know, the better you’ll be able to treat it.

Fortunately, my friend is doing fine. And now that he's actually seen a doctor, he's decided to follow his directions and work toward fixing the problem.
--Scott Samples

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