We asked four Main Line Health experts: "What should someone do now to reduce the risk for unwanted health surprises later—or at least to get through them with less stress?" Here are several preventive health tips that came back.
1. Take steps to prevent bone loss.
As we age, our bones get weaker. In women, this bone loss (a condition known as osteoporosis) speeds up during the "change of life" years when periods stop and the body produces less estrogen. This puts women at a higher risk of breaking a bone, which can result in a serious disability if it occurs in the spine or hips.
"Getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet is key to helping boost bone strength while staying active is also important," explains Katherine MacLean, OB/GYN at Axia Women's Health Main Line Women's Healthcare, part of Main Line Health. "A bone density scan will determine how much bone you've retained. Based on the results, your doctor may prescribe a medication or suggest supplements."
2. Create an advance care plan.
Creating a living will or an advance directive is the best way to make your wishes known and ensure they're respected in the event of a life-threatening or end-of-life situation where you can't speak for yourself.
People tend to put off advance care planning, explains Evan S. Schneidmesser, MD, a palliative care physician at Main Line Health. "They say they're not at that point yet, but in reality we're all at 'that point.' Anyone can have a medical crisis at any time, so it's best to make your plan and share it with family and your doctors sooner versus later."
3. Be ready if your child needs emergency care.
Another preventive health tip includes planning ahead in case your child ever needs to go to the ER. "Thinking ahead can help avoid some panic, advises Hazel Guinto, MD, pediatric emergency room physician at Bryn Mawr Hospital, part of Main Line Health. A few things you can do now include:
- Making sure you have your child's medical history on hand
- Ensure insurance information is up-to-date and available
- Opening an online patient portal for your child or putting the information on your smartphone
During an emergency, thinking ahead before going to the ER is also helpful. Says Guinto, "If possible, jot down as many things as you can about your child's problem: when it started, symptoms, treatments you've tried and when your child last ate or drank. If your child ingested something harmful, bring the container with you. If they swallowed an object, bring an example, if possible. If it's a dog bite, bring shot records or note anything you know about the animal." Such details will help the doctors make treatment decisions more rapidly.
And if you have time, grab a favorite book, toy or device to help pass the time and ease your child's stress.
4. Know the signs of depression in your "tough guy."
Some men may not seek help for depression because they think it's a sign of weakness or failure. But men commit suicide at least three times as often as women do. Being able to spot the signs of depression in men can help prevent it from escalating.
Says Regina Kemery, LPC, MA, MBA, a behavioral health therapist at Main Line Health, "Rather than saying anything, men may show depression by becoming withdrawn and having less motivation to do things. Others become more irritable and easily frustrated."
Escalating anger and hostility can signal an intent to harm oneself or others, she adds, "So it's important to pay attention to worrisome behavior changes because early treatment reduces risks."
If you think a man in your life may be depressed, gentle encouragement and support may provide the nudge they need to seek professional help. Another door-opener may be making an appointment with their primary care doctor as this can be a good opportunity to assess mental as well as physical health.