Starting a Healthy Midlife Tradition

BlogHer Original Post

Midlife is full of nostalgia. Sharing memories of friendship,
laughter and school. Remembering the all-night study sessions, the
all-night parties and all the mornings after. Homecoming weekend and
final exams. Your first date, a marriage, your first child -- year
after year of life's greatest moments. Conversations at midlife are
filled with "remember when" and "back-in-the-day."

Memories are great but midlife is also the time to look forward.
Today, really is the first day of the rest of your life. A day of new
beginnings and new traditions. And at midlife, one of the best
traditions to have is your annual physical exam. That's right. I said
physical exam. Head-to-toe, doctor, dentist, eye doctor. Once a year,
every year, you owe it to yourself.

We've all had experiences with health related tests and treatments
that aren't so pleasant to remember and certainly don't make acceptable
dinner conversation. My personal favorite is the mammogram experience -
my left breast pressed tightly between the two clear plates of glass
while the technician says in her most serious tone, "Don't move." Where
the hell would I go?

But I endure this process every year because in midlife I have to
accept the changes that come with maturity. It's important now to check
out all the aches and pains you were more likely to ignore in your
younger days. When you get tuned into the state of your health, you
start to be in control of your destiny. And at this point of our lives,
we've earned the right to be in control.

Now if the mere thought of an annual physical exam seems
overwhelming, there are 6 steps to make the process more manageable and
keep this tradition forefront in your mind - midlife moments
notwithstanding.

  1. Get a doctor. Select a family practitioner or an internist
    you like and can talk to. You probably already have a gynecologist but
    an internist focuses on the overall condition of your body not just
    your reproductive system. And make sure you have a gynecologist you
    feel comfortable with as you go through menopause.
  2. Don't forget your eyes and teeth. Select a dentist and eye doctor if you don't already have relationships with these specialists.
  3. Ask questions. Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor.
    Not only is this about you getting answers but it provides your doc
    with clues as to medical conditions you might have.
  4. Provide information. Take a plastic bag of all of your medications
    and any nutritional supplements you take like vitamins or herbs. And
    make a list of your medical history -- health care providers you've seen, why you saw them and their contact info. Be ready to provide a family health history.
  5. Pick your personal health check month. At midlife it's easier to
    remember that October, for instance, is the time when you schedule all
    of your physical exams.
  6. Keep a medical records file at home. File all of your medical records and receipts in one central place.

If you're still not convinced that this is a tradition that you can
embrace, let me offer a little motivation. At the tender young midlife
age of 57, I've already lost friends in the prime of midlife to
illnesses I used to think only affected the elderly. No one is promised
a tomorrow but you increase your chances of being here with an annual
physical exam.

So once a year, every year give yourself a priceless gift better
than gold and diamonds; better than cash, a trip around the world or
anything from a store.  And please remind a friend or relative to get
an annual medical check-up.

So enough with the discussion here. It's time to take action. Make
an appointment for your physical exam, slip into that oh so drafty, oh
so not sexy blue wallpaper print wraparound gown and congratulate
yourself if you can actually pee in the little cup they give you. And
while you wait for the doctor who's always a little behind schedule
when it's your turn - remember that your health is worth the wait.

Karen Batchelor is a certified coach & midlife strategist blogging over at Midlife's a Trip. Stop by and visit.

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