Make Prevention A Priority

You’ve heard it said before: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Or, if you haven’t, it means it is often easier to stop a problem before it happens rather than to stop it later. Health and wellness are no exceptions, but what about when something like a global pandemic throws the world off its axis and routine healthcare is no longer a priority?

Two years ago we would have said that’s highly unlike, yet that’s exactly what happened for hundreds of thousands of people. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 41% of U.S. adults reported having delayed or avoided medical care during the pandemic because of concerns about COVID-19, including 12% who reported having avoided urgent or emergency care. 

As the pandemic took hold, routine — and even emergency — healthcare fell by the wayside. As a result, so did prevention. Some problems and illnesses that may have been prevented in the early stages, became a bigger problem as time went on. 

I had a stomachache in October of 2020 that I ignored for several days. I didn’t particularly want to go to the doctor during the pandemic, especially for a stomachache. In reality, though, I was in pain from severe internal bleeding, and I needed emergency surgery to stop it. Although I am fully healed from that experience now, it remains difficult to think about “what if” I would have delayed seeking care for any longer than I did.

Medical care was also not something I avoided entirely during the pandemic. While regular office visits with my hematologist carried on uninterrupted virtually, I still visited the hospital lab in-person every couple of weeks to have my INR monitored because I take warfarin. I also kept my annual wellness visits with my gynecologist in person because their office made me feel really safe.

Yet, for all the routine things I did do, there was also something I chose not to do. Aside from ignoring what I thought was a stomachache, I determined that things like the eye doctor, the dentist, primary care, and an annual dermatology visit could wait a year (or two) before I went into the doctor’s office again. After all, I still saw my hematologist regularly and all of my doctors were informed about my surgery. 

Now, we’re living in a world that may never return completely to normal, so it’s time to re-connect with my healthcare team and make those annual wellness visits I skipped previously a priority. 

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been that hard to get back on track. As someone who struggles with health anxiety, it’s been empowering to feel like I am in control of my health again. It feels good to know that there aren’t any current problems lurking that I could have known – and done something about – sooner. 

Make prevention a priority for your health.

How can you get back on track with your health and wellness? Make prevention a priority and reconnect with your healthcare team about your health. This might induce things like routine eye and dental exams, physical check-ups, mammograms, colonoscopies, gynecological exams, or going to the doctor to find out why something is bothering you, causing you pain, or doesn’t seem quite right. It also includes talking about your risk for blood clots and how you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Tips to get your healthcare on track. 

  1. If you don’t know where to start, start somewhere. You can make an appointment with your primary care physician or doctor who handles most of your routine care. Discuss any concerns you have, how you have been feeling, and make sure your prescriptions are up to date. It’s a good time to have regular tests done (cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc.). It’s also a good opportunity to get any referrals to specialists that you might need or to discuss any specialized care that you’ve been considering. 
  2. Make blood clot prevention a priority. Discuss your risk for blood clots, and ways to reduce your risk. If you’ve experience a blood clot, it’s a good idea to periodically evaluate your treatment plan with your healthcare provider.
  3. Update your records. Make sure all of your doctors and pharmacy have your updated insurance information (if applicable) and also find out what benefits you have to use. Many wellness and preventive services are fully covered by insurance. If you need help affording your prescriptions, talk to your doctor about your options and visit my resources for some helpful links.
  4. Don’t forget about your mental and emotional health. The pandemic has been a difficult and stressful situation to navigate. If you need to, schedule a follow-up or seek out an appointment with a mental health provider. Visit my resources about emotional recovery.
  5. If you’re not happy or comfortable with any or all of your providers, now is a good time to start fresh. Don’t be afraid to seek out new or different care that better suits your needs. Here’s a tool to help aid you in your search for a doctor.

Have a conversation about blood clot prevention.

Whether you’ve experienced a blood clot or not, it’s important to include blood clots in your wellness (and prevention) discussions. Know your risk factors and make a plan, along with your doctor, to help prevent blood clots. This includes evaluating your current treatment and follow-up if you have already experienced a blood clot.

If you are a woman who is taking or considering taking hormonal birth control, it’s especially important to discuss your risk for blood clots because birth control methods with estrogen can increase your risk for blood clots. Estrogen-based birth control was a blood clot risk factor for me, and I never even knew about it.

The Rowan Foundation is focused on educating women about their blood clot risks and their options. It is a great resource for information and tools that you can take with you to your appointment. Download this Risk Assessment Tool or save it to your phone to discuss at your next doctor’s visit.

Know the signs and symptoms of blood clots too, and if you have any, be sure to contact your doctor or seek medical care right away. Signs of a blood clot in the leg or arm: pain, swelling, redness or other discoloration, and/or skin that feels warm to the touch. Signs of a blood clot in your lung: chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing or coughing up blood, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat. 

Share your story to help raise blood clot awareness and make a difference.

If you’ve been impacted by blood clots, it’s also a good time to share your story. Our stories are often the catalyst for change. By sharing your experience with blood clots, you might make the difference for someone else who doesn’t know or is delaying seeking medical care. 

You can also connect with the Rowan Foundation to share your story, and while you’re there, take a moment to read about Alexandra Rowan. She lost her life to a blood clot in her lung caused by hormonal birth control. Her spirit continues to inspire the work that I do and her story is forever imprinted on my heart. 

While not every loss may be prevented, I do hope that by sharing our stories – and by sharing information about blood clots – we can make a difference. A cornerstone of this effort is work the Rowan Foundation is doing to increase awareness and ultimately reduce the number of lives lost to preventable blood clots.

As you move forward with your healthcare and wellness plan, make blood clot prevention a priority and if you need help or aren’t sure about something, seek care sooner rather than later to address any concerns that you may have. 

There is hope for healing from blood clots, and you are not alone.

Reader Writes In: How are you prioritizing your healthcare this year?

Share your story in the comments.

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