Take Responsibility for Your Health

One of the important things people should do is accept responsibility for taking care of themselves. It’s important to question and understand your doctor’s advice, whether she/he is an MD or a provider of alternative medical care.

There are many examples of people whose health has been tragically damaged as a result of a medical mistake. More than 100,000 people die each year due to medical errors. In the event you find yourself in a hospital or doctor’s office for health-related reasons, here’s a to-do of things you can do TODAY to protect your health.

1. Know what medications you are taking. Yes, I know this sounds very basic, but you would be surprised to know how many people don’t actually know this information. I’ll see some in my office sometime… Some men will leave it up to their wives to “keep track of that stuff.”

This is a problem. Absolutely, you must take your own health seriously and know what medicines you’re taking. It is not your spouse’s job to know that information… It is YOUR job. This also includes herbal or nutritional supplements.

You don’t have to memorize the list, but be sure to carry one with you of ANYTHING you’re taking and take the list to any medical appointments. Also, be sure to update it with new information as often as necessary.

2. Get a second opinion. If you are facing a health crisis, be sure to get another opinion. Years ago, I recall one man on the Oprah Winfrey show got five opinions before he found the one doctor who would treat him not so aggressively. Despite getting a six-month prognosis, he’s still here, 18 months later.

3. Question everything. Yes, some doctors might get offended, but TOO BAD. In fact, they should welcome your input and your questions. If you’re unsure about something, ASK. And ask again.

When you’re in the hospital, make sure you know what the nurses are putting in your IV. They won’t mind you asking, because they want to make sure there are no mistakes made either. This keeps everyone on their toes and tells your medical team you are actively involved in your own health care.

Despite what you might believe, health professionals really like that. They want someone who will ask questions. Don’t take anything for granted! Nurses and doctors are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us, so ask!

And, if you’re not able to be as involved in your care because you are recovering, make sure you have a family member who will advocate for your health!

4. Watch out for infections. When dealing with health care practitioners, make sure you see them wash their hands before they touch you. This seems like common sense, but they get busy rushing from patient to patient. Recently, I heard a story from a patient the other day, about a Doctor coming in from another room and starting to examine him without washing his hands. Make sure they wash their stethoscope too! Speak up and protect your health, as if no one else will!

5. Verify your prescriptions. If a doctor gives you a prescription, don’t just take the script and leave. It is important you ask him/her what the drug is, the dosage, what it does and how to take it. Write this info down, especially if you are getting multiple prescriptions! A doctor’s handwriting can be a serious problem too, resulting in many errors at your local pharmacy. Again, speaking up and asking questions will ensure you get the medication you need that is right — and safe — for you.

6. Listen to your body. You have that “gut” feeling that something isn’t quite right. You go to the doctor and they run a test that results in a “negative” diagnosis. They tell you “you’re fine, but you still have that nagging feeling something is wrong with your health.

Go to someone else. Get another test, ESPECIALLY if you have symptoms that mirror this issue. Misdiagnoses happen all the time, but they can be prevented. Follow your inner guidance.

7. Discuss your surgery. If you are having surgery, I would recommend phoning the anesthesiologist the day before to discuss your case. Of course, you will meet this person the day of your surgery, but calling in advance lets them know you are taking responsibility for your health. Ask all the questions you need answered.

This person will be responsible for making sure that you are “out” during the surgical procedure, so it is important you get to know each other. Be sure to discuss any concerns or questions with them.

8. Mark Your Body. Be sure to mark the “surgical spot.” There are MANY documented cases of the wrong fill-in-the-body-part being operated on and the wrong organs being taken out… It happens all the time. Don’t be afraid to write “cut here” and “don’t cut here” on your body!

9. “Whatever You Say, Doctor…” Unfortunately, I see a lot of patients who believe in the Doctor is God complex. This is simply not true. Saying that “I’ll do whatever you say, Doctor” or “I’ll take whatever you give me, Doctor” is not in your best interest.

Doctors are only human, after all. Not only do they make mistakes: Sometimes, they have very different opinions from one another.

If someone is suggesting you take a prescription medication or have surgery or some other aggressive treatment, be sure to get the facts. Is there no other possible way to deal with this issue than drugs or surgery? What other options would be available?

If it doesn’t feel right to you, chances are there may be another way of handling it. Even if that means going to another doctor or several other doctors; don’t be afraid to do it. Don’t put them on a pedestal.

The bottom line: It is YOUR body and YOUR health. Speak up for yourself!

10. Seek out alternatives. There is often a natural or alternative way of handling a diagnosis. As a Naturopath, it is my job to evaluate your unique health care situation and recommend lifestyle changes and natural nutritional support to help you through a health crisis.

Because there are many different alternative and natural healing modalities out there, be sure to visit several different practitioners if you have a health crisis. Again, ask lots and lots of questions. You must feel comfortable with ANY health care team member you entrust to protect your health and wellness!

Lastly, I recommend everyone watch Food Matters. This film is guaranteed to educate you and help you make better health choices for yourself and your family!

Stay healthy, everyone!