Let’s have a heart-to-heart

You have the power to improve your health

You were told your cholesterol is creeping up but changes in your diet and activity level can improve it. You cut out fast food … occasionally.

You’ve been put on blood pressure medication. You take it … sometimes.

You know all the reasons why you need to quit smoking. … You’re still smoking.

The truth is, doctors can unclog arteries, prescribe more medications, remove tumors — save you. But they can’t keep saving you. You have to save you.

“You’re the No. 1 person in charge of your wellness and your illness,” said Steven J. Raible, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists. “By playing an active role in your well-being — just like you would for your children, a beloved pet, even your car — you live a longer, happier, more fulfilling life.”

While Dr. Raible focuses on heart health, this philosophy is true for everyone regardless of your health issues.

“Being that February is Heart Month, looking at your heart health is a great starting point,” Dr. Raible said. “The heart is much like a central operating system for the whole body. The way you live your life affects it, and when it’s not working the way it should, your whole body bears the consequences.”

Where do you begin? By establishing a relationship with a primary care physician and visiting that physician at least once a year for a routine checkup and health screenings. Then, you must play an active role in your health by:

  • Being accountable. Participate in your own health by becoming informed about any conditions you have, medications you take, treatment plans, etc. You will be happier with your care, you can measure your progress and it keeps you focused and motivated on improving your health.
  • Asking questions. Come to your appointments with a list of questions or concerns for your doctor. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, even the uncomfortable ones.
  • Sharing concerns and desires. Set health goals and share them with your doctor. If you don’t know where to begin, your doctor can help you decide on the most important goals. Then, together you can make a plan to reach those goals.
  • Following your doctor’s orders. This ties in with being accountable and achieving your goals — neither can happen if you don’t follow your doctor’s advice.

“By taking responsibility for your part and meeting your medical provider halfway, you are empowering yourself,” Dr. Raible said. “Empowerment gives you personal satisfaction and investment in your health. And guess what? You are going to feel good, which is going to motivate you to do even more to improve your health. And the more you do, the more you’ll feel good, and so on.”

Your relationship with your doctor is the cornerstone of your health. And just like any other personal relationship, if you don’t feel listened to, heard or respected; if you’re not comfortable asking questions; or if you feel like your participation isn’t welcomed, it’s time to move on to someone new.

To get the most of your doctor’s visits, Dr. Raible also recommends bringing someone with you who can advocate for you if you don’t think you can do it yourself or who can simply be a second set of ears to hear important information. Also, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you feel unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan.


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