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What are the most important warnings in life?

A physician’s responsibility is to help patients “feel good and look good, and to feel good and look good as long as possible.” This boils down to helping our patients maintain the best health possible, because people feel the best when they are healthy, look the best when they are healthy, and have the greatest longevity when they are healthy.
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A physician’s responsibility is to help patients “feel good and look good, and to feel good and look good as long as possible.” This boils down to helping our patients maintain the best health possible, because people feel the best when they are healthy, look the best when they are healthy, and have the greatest longevity when they are healthy. To accomplish this, we promote the healthiest lifestyle possible, treat illnesses and diseases as they occur, and screen for the presence of diseases which sneak up on us, and can be catastrophic! As such, the most important warnings in life are those which hint that a serious condition may be present, allowing us to take corrective action before things get away on us.

 

I think of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers. He experienced subtle changes in his health, only to learn he had end-stage pancreatic cancer, which claimed his life months later.

 

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Where were the warning signs?

We all know the man who developed subtle changes in bowel patterns, only to find that he had advanced colon cancer, or the women who found a breast lump only to learn she had breast cancer.

On a daily basis, I meet patients who have developed chest pain, who quickly learn that they have developed obstructive coronary disease (blockages in the arteries to the heart), and need stent placement or even coronary artery bypass surgery because of multiple severe blockages in the arteries to the heart.

 

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Unfortunately, many important warning signs don’t give us enough time to respond! As such, the “most important” warning sign is our poor health habits (smoking, drinking, over-eating, poor exercise) and conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, emotional stress), because improving our general health is the most important thing we can do to prevent deadly diseases – while there is still time.

Because the warning signs are so subtle or even non-existent, we must all be careful to undergo appropriate screening for the silent killers. These include colon cancer and the sex-specific cancers (prostate cancer for men, breast cancer for women).

For the average person, screening for colon cancer should begin at age 45 for African Americans and at age 50 for other races.

This includes a colonoscopy every 10 years and annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which has high test sensitivity for cancer. For the average man, screening for prostate cancer should also begin at age 45 for African Americans and at age 50 for other races. Men should have a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA). If screening does not detect cancer, the time between subsequent screenings depends on the results of the blood test, as follows: PSA < 2.5 ng/ml – Retesting may be done every 2 years; PSA ≥ 2.5 ng/ml – Retesting should be done annually.

 

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Beginning at age 40, women should receive a clinical breast examination (CBE), and begin screening mammograms starting at age 50.

Even women in their 20s should learn how to perform a self-breast exam (SBE), which may be useful in discovering concerning breast lumps early on.

We appreciate more and more that financial well-being is closely tied to health. Those with financial means can access better nutrition, better living conditions, and health care. Having these things also reduces dangerous stress, which greatly contributes to quality of life. As such, I encourage my patients to always be moving towards a position of financial stability.

Developing financial stability means living within our means, spending less than we earn, until we are all saving 10% of every dollar we earn. Interesting, my patients who are disciplined to live healthfully are also those with financial discipline. In financial terms, the most important warning is that you are spending more than you earn. This is a recipe for long term ruin which will ultimately erode health and predispose to disease.

 

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KEY POINTS:

Report any chest pain to your doctor

Ask your doctor for appropriate screening for colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer

Get ahead by spending less than you earn!

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