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How to Become an Advocate for your own Health

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

**This blog was written for and published by Got Your Back Foundation Non-Profit. See original link below:

The unfortunate truth about our urban world is that much of what’s “normal” for most of society, is not designed to help you reach your optimal health. Efficiency and convenience are made affordable while health and wellness are guarded by wealth and distance.  It’s easier and more affordable to eat from a fast-food restaurant rather than buying your groceries from a family-owned organic farm. 

The truth is, you must work hard to reach your optimal health. Oftentimes we assume that medical professionals are always right or always have our best interests in mind. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many Americans. The New York Times has documented racial biases in the healthcare system and the often lethal effects it can have on African-Americans. In particular, a 2017 study showed that many physicians, primarily white, expressed an implicit bias toward white patients when offering treatment and making decisions regarding care. If you can’t trust your doctors then who can you trust? History has shown us that you are often your best advocate. 

Allow me to paint an all too common picture for you: 

Lately, you haven’t been feeling great. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what’s wrong, but you don’t feel like yourself. So you head to your healthcare professional in search of answers. You explain your symptoms and your doctor orders a blood test to find the culprit. You hear back from the doctor, a few of your levels are off, so you’re ordered a prescription and given some instructions. After a few years of taking medication, your blood test results show that all your levels are normal but you still don’t feel like yourself. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Quite often, something can feel off with your physical or mental wellness, but when your lab results come back as “normal” you are often sent home with a clean bill of health. However, despite what the tests may show, you know that’s not the case.

You must be an advocate for your own health. 

This idea became a harrowing reality for world-famous tennis superstar Serena Williams after giving birth to her daughter in 2018. After her Cesarean section, Williams insisted that something wasn’t quite right, and given her history of pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lungs) she did not want to take any chances. She insisted her doctors scan her chest for clotting and start her on anti-clotting medications. The physicians wrote the request off as “confusion due to her pain meds.” Williams insisted tirelessly, and after much argument, her doctors agreed. Scans showed multiple clots in her lungs and her doctors were able to promptly treat them. If she had not advocated for herself, Williams could have been dead within hours. 

Serena’s intuition literally saved her life and your intuition can save yours too. 

It’s up to you to take the initiative to seek out the right professionals and information and make the lifestyle changes necessary to get on the path toward optimal health. Here are a few quick tips to help you do so: 

Familiarize yourself with your blood test measurements and results

Learning about what some of these confusing values mean will educate you about your body’s functions and in turn, allow you and your healthcare provider to make the most informed decisions regarding your treatment. The ability to read your own results will empower you to take your health into your own hands and catch issues early on, avoiding possible health problems later in life. 

James Lavalle, an amazing physician, has devoted his life to empowering the average person. His book Your Blood Never Lies teaches you how to both read and interpret your blood test results, giving you the ability to truly engage with your physician. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! 

The relationship you have with your healthcare professionals should be a cohesive one. Many of us are used to simply listening to our doctors, rather than conversing with them. Ask them questions! If you show you care about your own health, they will reciprocate that energy. 

Express Your Concerns and Convey your Desires

Many of us leave the doctor's office nervous and concerned. What are the side effects of this new medication? How much longer can I expect to see my symptoms? Concerns such as these often fill our heads and can drastically affect our mental health. 

Remember, your doctors are people too. They understand the emotional toll that health issues can have on the average person. Be sure to address any concerns early on so your doctor can help ease your worries. 

Make it a point to explain what it is you truly want out of treatment. When you’re clear about your goals and desires, your healthcare provider can ensure that he/she is doing the right thing to help you reach them. 

For more help in building an open dialogue with your healthcare professionals, check out Dr. Zachary Berger's book Talking to your Doctor: A Patient’s Guide to Communication in the Exam Room and Beyond. 

Even with all the initiative and information in the world, you can’t do it yourself. It takes a team of professionals to guide you toward optimal health. This is exactly why GYB can be your greatest asset. 

Got Your Back Total Health and its Foundation have brought together a comprehensive team of health professionals, to provide truly holistic care. Next week we will delve into the importance of holistic treatment and all the different services GYB offers. 

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