By Timothy Layman, DNP
Since many are working at home independently and otherwise staying put, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the baseline measurements of health that we refer to as “your numbers.” An unfortunate trend that healthcare providers have observed over the past year is people putting off getting treatment for symptoms that ultimately lead to serious illness, like diabetes or a heart attack, for fear that they will contract COVID-19 at the hospital.
I hear from our team members that because of this restraint, when people finally arrive here at AMC, they are often much sicker than they would’ve been had they sought care earlier. Unfortunately, this leads to increased adverse outcomes.
People delay routine screenings in some instances, which is problematic because a budding condition, such as diabetes for example, can be caught, treated, and managed. In contrast, if it continues to accelerate silently, again, by the time you visit us, you’re dealing with a more severe condition. At other times, we’re seeing individuals experiencing symptoms that require a call to 911 the instant they’re noticed, but waiting to seek treatment. Sadly, this can be deadly when it comes to heart attacks and strokes.
It has never been truer that our hospital is the farthest thing from a dangerous place to be in terms of COVID-19. On the contrary, the protocols we’re observing — universal screening for all who enter AMC, visitor restriction levels that are appropriate concerning the level of infection we are experiencing, and mandated masking — mean that AMC is one of the safest places you could be. We’re doing our part so you can continue to get the best treatment possible, with whatever symptoms or condition you are experiencing.
The important part you can play in this has to do with keeping informed on those numbers I referred to earlier. If you know your BMI (body mass index) — an essential measurement of your risk for disease based on your height and weight, cholesterol readings (HDL is “good,” LDL is “bad), blood pressure and glucose level, you will be ahead of the game when it comes to your ability to tell whether something is amiss with your health and if you should seek care with us.
You become familiar with your numbers by scheduling an annual physical, something else you shouldn’t put off because of the pandemic. It gives you and your primary care provider a chance to discuss your numbers, and then you know, for example, if your blood pressure climbs to a dangerous level, because you can put it into the correct context. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of heart attack and stroke. The more in tune you are at recognizing them, the more skilled you will be at deciding when to call for help.
The pandemic has had a negative effect on many people’s health for multiple reasons. In addition to contributing to people postponing routine and necessary medical care, our anxiety and isolation have led to weight gain, interrupted sleep, and doing things like leaning on comfort food and that extra glass of wine to reduce our stress. In reality, taking a socially distanced walk with a friend, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, and heading to bed instead of opting for another episode of your latest “binge show” are the smartest things you can do to alleviate stress in the long run.
What we’re living through is not easy. Though we have reasons to be hopeful — the vaccine, being able to get outside again, and hopefully falling numbers of COVID-19 related diagnoses and deaths — at no time should we ease up on practicing our three Ws. Please keep masking when you go out, waiting six feet apart from others, and washing your hands often. These are the proven practices that make all the difference.
Ensure your safety throughout the pandemic by continuing to be mindful of your health and never putting off seeking care, whether it’s a scheduled mammogram or symptoms of a heart attack. We’re here, safe, and ready to care for you, especially now.
Timothy Layman, DNP, is the Administrator of Clinical Operations at Angel Medical Center.