By Curtis Thill, MD
As a long-time physician serving people in Crawford County and the region, I know that thinking about health can be an unsettling. Why? For one thing, it can represent the “great unknown,” especially in this time of COVID-19. When we start having an odd pain, feel unusually tired, or see a bump that wasn’t there before, we naturally wonder what’s up – and sometimes arrive at an early conclusion we don’t like.
If you’re male, it’s probably worse. Statistical research shows that men are less likely to visit a medical professional when something seems wrong. The truth is that – whether male or female – delaying a checkup won’t help anything.
Why do people delay getting help? Sometimes we might compare our situation to a car’s check-engine light. We hear a funny noise, and the dashboard light comes on. The challenge? There’s no clear-cut signal telling us what the problem actually is or how much it will cost to fix it. Do we keep driving until something breaks down? Or see a mechanic now?
Sometimes the same is true of our personal health. We have an unexplained ache or pain or general feeling of not being up to par. Do we ignore it and hope it goes away?
The fact is that delaying seeing a doctor or provider can result in much higher costs of care and complicated outcomes.
But despite that fact, large numbers of people bypass seeing a medical professional, even if they’re sick or injured. Those situations typically don’t have good outcomes.
In some areas of southern Indiana, where economic and family conditions may complicate things, it’s easy to put off doing the right thing. If one is facing a tight budget, one can try to justify putting off medical care because they’re worried about cost or value.
As a practicing doctor, let me assure you: there is good news.
Let’s go back to our “check engine light” analogy. Many people know that preventive maintenance – regularly checking the oil, keeping filters up to date, and fixing minor issues as they come up – makes a car last longer. A mechanic can alert you to potential issues before they become major ones.
Your body – and your life — benefits from similar attention. And it’s also true that when preventative upkeep is ignored, problems can advance.
Here’s a big one that people famously ignore: high blood pressure (hypertension).
High blood pressure doesn’t typically show any open obvious symptoms in its early stages. But its “silent” nature masks the damage the condition may be inflicting. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage and disease and increases risks for later heart problems (including heart failure) and stroke. Nobody wants those kinds of conditions.
Pre-diabetes and related stages of diabetes also rank high in the “ignore” category. Effective treatments (including simple changes in diet) exist. If we don’t get checked out, untreated diabetes can also produce bad outcomes like heart disease, kidney and other issues, and even loss of vision.
Regular “preventive maintenance” —scheduling (and showing up) for routine annual physicals, age-appropriate screenings or other preventive health care actions –can help you avoid advanced conditions that can be costly.
The bottom line? Taking charge of your health and completing just a few preventive steps can establish a pattern of wellness. That new pattern can result in higher energy, better sleep and overall feelings of good health for you.
Having good health is especially important during this time of COVID-19. People who are healthy and have been vaccinated are likely to experience fewer or less severe symptoms.
Here’s more good news – you don’t have to go it alone! Medical professionals and providers – like those at SICHC – are available in our region to help make your life better, including helping you find answers to questions about COVID-19 or other medical issues of all kinds. Find a provider who will meet you where you are in life and work together to elevate your health. Good health – at an affordable cost – can be just a phone call or online click away. Take your health off “ignore” and reap the benefits!
Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Curtis Thill has served residents of Crawford County and the region for more than two decades.