Don’t let COVID-19 distract you from keeping up with routine healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has consumed much of our attention and energy in 2020 as we fight to block the spread of the novel coronavirus.

For the most part, people know to do the right things in the workplace: practicing social distancing, masking up, frequently washing their hands and staying home when they don’t feel well.

But what many are not doing is staying on top of their overall health.

There has been a decline in the number of people seeking emergency care at hospitals for conditions such as heart attack and stroke. Many people are delaying care for fear they’ll be exposed to the virus in the hospital.

“Our Lady of the Lake has put in place rigorous infection-fighting measures  to ensure patient safety,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, Our Lady of the Lake chief medical officer. Patients infected with the novel coronavirus—or who may have been—are cared for in designated areas and isolated from other patients.

It’s not only emergency care that people are avoiding. There have also been declines in the number of people going for regular doctor visits and having timely health screenings.

“It’s often at routine visits that primary care providers and some specialists detect early signs of life-threatening conditions such as cancer or heart disease,” explains Dr. Lauren Barfield, medical director of adult primary care with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group. “Early detection can be crucial for good outcomes.”

These four guidelines are useful reminders to help you stay healthy.

The basics

Primary care providers check and track vital signs such as blood pressure and blood sugar levels, heart rate, cholesterol and lipid levels, as well as weight and body mass index.

Staying healthy requires monitoring those factors, including blood work, which doctors monitor to manage their patients’ health. Your provider can also administer necessary vaccines, such as seasonal flu shots.

Health screenings

Doctors recommend a variety of age-appropriate screenings for colorectal cancer, mammogram screenings for breast cancer, dermatology screenings for skin cancer and monitoring heart health. These tests can detect early signs of disease and are associated with better outcomes.

Managing chronic conditions

Delaying followup appointments for conditions like diabetes or hypertension can have dire consequences. It’s important for physicians to refill medications, monitor blood work and ensure proper management of chronic conditions to keep patients healthy.

Symptoms

“Don’t ignore them,” Dr. Barfield warns. Even if they’re minor, symptoms can alert your doctor and help prevent more serious illness.

Anyone who experiences pressure, pain or discomfort in the chest should seek immediate medical attention. The same goes for severe headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, sudden difficulty thinking or speaking, or other neurological symptoms which may indicate a stroke.

Because COVID-19 presents itself in many different ways, and because it’s so contagious, it’s important to seek care for any of a variety of symptoms including fever, congestion, coughing, or loss of smell or taste.

For more information about how Our Lady of the Lake can help you stay healthy, click here.

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