PRESCRIPTIONS: When in doubt, get yourself tested
By Ritu Bhatia
February 19, 2014 – It’s hard to avoid judging my chain-smoking friend H when he lapses into a coughing fit. I bite my lip, but still can’t help asking when he had his last medical checkup.
The question seems to surprise him. “What for?” he retorts. “There’s no point in getting all worried about health issues.”
I am speechless, even though H’s reaction isn’t really all that surprising. He’s not alone in his denial. Many believe that the best way to get through life is by avoiding health check-ups- they just carry on doing what they are doing and hope for the best.
If H were told that he had a patch on his lungs, for instance, he would be forced to consider throwing out his cigarettes. Since he has absolutely no desire to do this, he stays away from the doctor.
On the contrary, another friend struck by late stage ovarian cancer was lamenting about how much she regretted not getting genetic testing for risk, considering her family history of cancer. Though she was careful about getting her annual medical examination, she had skipped DNA testing.
“Spending one thousand bucks on the test three years ago would have saved me the lakhs I have spent on treatment,” she said.
Ironically, her experience isn’t enough to convince female relatives to head to the lab.
“I’ve begged them to go, even offered to pay for the test, but they say they don’t want to know whether their risk is high – that everything is God’s will.”
Now there’s nothing wrong with having faith. But using God as an excuse to skip keeping track of how your body is faring is irresponsible and one reason for the late diagnosis of diseases.
Early detection of illnesses or predisposition to them can save people a lot of problems. Considering the financial and emotional costs of chronic illnesses, experts agree that the best route to good health is prevention.
It’s worthwhile to take the trouble to find out how your body is faring on a daily basis, says bestselling author Dr. David Agus in his new book A short guide to a long life.
“Listen, look and feel,” is his adage – and the way to do this is by keeping a personal health diary that records various parameters: blood pressure, heart rate, moods, energy level, how food and events impact us, aches and pains, how well we sleep, and so on.
Getting acquainted with our bodies and recording their responses to varying factors can help in the creation of good health. Regular recording of this kind may prompt us to adopt healthy habits early, and drop those that increase our susceptibility to illnesses, says the author of this useful and down-to-earth guide.
Another piece of advice Dr. Agus offers is to get naked in front of a mirror.
“Once in a while take a visual inventory of every square inch of yourself, including your hair, nails and the inside of your mouth,” he says. Familiarising yourself with the external appearance of your body will enable you to spot any change in colour, texture or appearance – such as a mole or lump – that may signal disease.
In fact, tuning into our bodies and their signals is an easy way to delay or prevent the majority of health problems – cancer, heart and kidney disease, diabetes, neuro degenerative conditions and so on.
“Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future,” said Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine.
This health rule may have been created in the third and fourth century BC, but it still has relevance, especially since we have all the technological and medical tools we need to help us track our health.
A fishy way to boost your mood
Depressed? Instead of reaching for a pill, open a can of tuna.
A three-ounce serving of canned white tuna fish contains about 800 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, known for its mood-boosting properties.
The American psychiatric association even endorses tuna as a part of depression treatment.
You can stir-fry this with some peppers or add a dollop of mayonnaise to make it more appetizing
There’s no plan for concierge care here
Concierge Medicine, also known as the “Rolls Royce of medicine” or “boutique medicine”, is a form of personalized healthcare that is gaining popularity in the US and the UK.
This involves paying an annual retainer fee to a physician to attend to your medical needs throughout the year and entitles a customer round the clock access, quick appointments and extra attention from his doctor.
But here in India, the super-specialist has taken over from the primary physician.
People who pay huge sums for private healthcare at hospitals are grudging about paying their local doctors a retainer fee.
“Family doctors end up becoming the ones to deliver free concierge services,” says Dr. Satish Bhardwaj of Goodman’s Clinic, New Delhi.
High-tech devices for the disabled
Accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities is a huge challenge in this country, since public spaces, facilities and even basis amenities such as toilets are not designed for those with handicaps.
Creating sustainable reform in the disability sector requires the forging of partnerships between technology companies, NGOs, entrepreneurs, and the government.