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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician.
It’s a new year and a great time to make sure your health is in order. The following checklist can be taken to your doctor to review your overall well-being. In addition, Dr. Mary Meyer, a DaVita nephrologist who has been practicing in the areas of critical care, transplant and nephrology over the past 18 years, also suggests six items that you should pay extra attention to when talking with your doctor.
Physical health review
While all the items on the checklist are important, Dr. Meyer especially recommends the following six topics be addressed with your doctor.
Flu shots help prevent many people from getting the flu. People with kidney disease are encouraged even more to get the vaccine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection suggest that people who have kidney disease and/or diabetes and need regular medical care have a flu shot.
While shots are usually given before flu season in October or November, the beginning of the year is a good time to make sure you are up to date on both shots. If you haven’t had your flu or pneumonia shots, ask your doctor. Flu season can last until May, so you’ll want to be protected.
If you’ve had a kidney transplant recently, you should make sure that your doctor pays special attention to the status of your new kidney. When going in for follow-up checkups, bring your surgery handbook, if you have one, and the list of medicines you are taking.
You should also tell your doctor how your home monitoring has been going. This monitoring should include regular, self-administered checks on weight, temperature and blood pressure. If you notice a dramatic weight gain, you could be retaining fluids. Temperature change can indicate infection. If there is a noticeable change in blood pressure, you should visit your doctor.
If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association suggests that you visit your doctor two to four times a year. If you are on insulin, these visits should occur at least four times so by the time you walk in for your New Year checkup, it should have been only a few months since your last doctor’s visit.
Dr. Meyer advises that you see an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in treating diabetes) if you aren’t working with your primary care doctor or nephrologist to manage your diabetes.
Dr. Meyer says along with checking your glucose (blood sugar) level, blood pressure and weight, your doctor should check cholesterol, blood fat and glycated hemoglobin (hemoglobin A1c).
The new year is also the perfect time to go over your medicines with your doctor. You should review what you are taking, how you are feeling and how your body is responding to the medicines based on your lab results. You can help your doctor determine if you’re taking the right medicines, or if there are medicines you no longer need to take. “It’s the perfect time to streamline the drugs you are taking,” Dr. Meyer says.
Even if you are on dialysis, Dr. Meyer recommends you stay active. “A lot of people say that you shouldn’t work if you are on dialysis. I think that’s the wrong advice. The more you get out into the community the better,” says Dr. Meyer. In addition to the social benefits of working, the financial benefits of an income and health insurance can also provide peace of mind.
Exercise can also provide a health benefit. Talk to your doctor about what kind of physical activity will be good for you. Even a little bit of exercise can be a big help.
For a person with kidney disease, dealing with physical health issues can be all consuming. “Everybody is so busy dealing with the physical issues that they forget about the emotional strain,” says Dr. Meyer. But she believes that it’s a good idea to take the time to check in with your feelings and emotions.
If you are on dialysis, talk to the social worker at your center. The social worker can help determine if you have clinical depression and can assist you with getting more treatment if needed. In addition, social workers are trained to teach stress reduction techniques that can help decrease emotional strain. Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health.
Make this year the best it can be by taking care of your physical and emotional needs.
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