Beginning Jan. 1, the Affordable Care Act will give millions of newly insured Americans access to health care, many for the first time.
At Franciscan St. James Health, as with many hospitals, we are prepared for a potential influx of patients who will be seeking services they put off for months, sometimes years, because they weren’t able to afford them.
We also expect a great number of those patients to begin scheduling age-appropriate screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and skin cancer evaluations.
We applaud the effort to improve the health of all Americans. In making health insurance affordable and providing the opportunity to millions of people to get necessary preventative screenings, the government has taken some large — and arguably contentious — first steps. The health care industry is working to incorporate the new requirements and make the system as user-friendly as possible.
But the lion’s share of responsibility will be up to you — the consumer.
Take charge of your health. The big three – exercise, nutrition and adequate sleep — are vital to your well-being. A move by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month that will ban manufactured, partially hydrogenated oils from food is a great start. Those are the fats you find in foods such as microwave popcorn, packaged cookies and frozen pizza. They are also the fats that are at least partially responsible for 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 cardiac-related deaths each year.
Drink more water and get more sleep. Studies show three out of every four Americans is chronically dehydrated and 41 million of us don’t get enough sleep. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are all linked to inadequate amounts of sleep.
Take medications as prescribed: If you have health conditions that require medication, such as those for high blood pressure and diabetes, please take the drugs your doctor orders as prescribed.
Keep exercise a priority: When you go to your doctors, ask for help creating an exercise schedule that works best for your lifestyle and condition. Even if you don’t have a medical condition, keep exercise a priority. It can help prevent complications down the road. Research has shown both diabetes and hypertension can be better controlled in patients who remain active and fit regular exercise into their already-busy schedules.
Make a well-person visit an annual priority: Become a partner with your health care practitioners. What you don’t know about your health really can hurt you. Doctors today are so skilled they can spot many conditions before you feel the ill-effects. Early intervention and prudent treatment can help you live better, longer and with fewer long-term consequences.
These are great first steps, and the staff at Franciscan St. James will do everything we can to make the transition as easy as possible