I’ve been a YMCA member for several years. I don’t visit every day because I prefer to run (or walk) my daily three to six miles outside. Fortunately, Louisville weather is conducive to this type of physical activity (as well as having a wide variety of parks to pace myself in). But typical for Louisville, the bad, gloomy, cold weather does tend to coincide with the mad rush of new gym members, and I find I spend more time searching for a parking space then pedaling on the stationary bike.
The first month(s) of the new year is when we make promises to ourselves and our families such as:
• This is the year I will finally run the YOUR CITY HERE marathon.
• This is the year I will finally lose those extra 10/15/20/too-much-to-say pounds so I can wear a bikini in the summer.
• This is the year I finally stop smoking/drinking/watching reality television and the like.
So with all the best of intentions, January and February find that each treadmill has a wait list, and weight-loss programs advertise like crazy (implying that you can not only lose weight to look just like Jennifer Hudson, but you might end up singing like her as well) and there isn’t an empty seat in a meeting to be found.
But one’s quest for better health should begin much earlier in life. If you think about it, when we are children our parents never missed a pediatric check up and would call the doctor when we had a slight cough. But somehow as we transition into adulthood, we pay less attention to wellness checks and more attention to the next quick-fix pill. And women tend to defer their own visits to the doctor, taking everyone else and “just making due” with whatever ailment has us incapacitated.
So women, take note that starting in our 20s we should:
• Have a basic physical every 2-3 years
• Have a pap-test and basic pelvic exam every year
• Have a breast cancer screening (every three years until age 40, then annually after that)
• Have a cholesterol check every five year
• Have an eye exam every 2-3 years
• Visit the dentist once a year
Now, if we didn’t do all that (waving my hand up in the air over here) when we were young, that’s okay. We can start now. We can pick up our phone, make an appointment,and find out what makes us tick and what will keep us ticking. And these are basic. When you call your doctor let them know you might need your thyroid checked (if you’ve had some sudden weight gain or loss) or your iron levels. Each age might have a different series of tests run. And don’t forget, we “Go Red” in February for our hearts, and for those who love us with theirs.
Remember, if mama gets run down, the household machine tends to run off the rails.
Not only is this important for basic healthy reasons, but for those intent on losing weight or getting physically fit, many programs require that you know your blood pressure, body mass index, lung capacity, and so on. Furthermore, trust your instincts. Don’t just Google your symptoms; for goodness sake, talk with a trained physician! I can’t tell you the number of people I know who have an incurable illness just because a web search told them so.
So add this to your list of resolutions and accomplishments for 2013: I resolve to be a healthier me by finding out my baselines and more about basic health care because being the best me means learning about my health before there is no best me left to learn about.