Want to stay healthy... See your Doctor

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 15. March 2013 09:00

Having come to that important moment of self-awareness and realizing that the only person who is responsible for our health is ourselves, that our bodies need maintenance just like everything else in our lives that we would like to sustain, what do we do first? In the never-ending journey of good heart health, what is the first step?

The first step is to see your doctor.

I’m not telling you this to just drum up business for my homies. I’m telling you this to keep you safe. There is a small but definite percentage of you out there who have a bad combination of things in your medical past that could put you in harm’s way if you decided to jump on a treadmill or an elliptical machine for a half hour for the first time in forever. You must talk with your doctor about what you would like to accomplish and seek his or her advice about how to do this safely.

With safety being the first priority, the rest of what we’re talking about is basic Deming’s principles stuff. Walter Deming is the statistician who brought us the Japanese methods of continuous process improvement. Professor Deming tells us that, before you can improve any process, first you must understand the process as well as you can. To help understand it, one of the key things you must do is measure everything you can about it. There is no reason why these principles cannot be applied to the human body.

For your heart’s health there are a number of things that must be measured. The most fundamental are body dimensions: height and weight. Next are vital signs: temperature, resting pulse rate (beats per minute), resting respiratory rate (breathes per minute) and blood pressure. In my office, where we see so many people with advanced heart disease, we also include blood oxygen saturation at rest. This is done with a simple finger probe.

So far so good. We have gotten a whole bunch of useful information about our bodies and the doctor hasn’t even put on a rubber glove yet! In all honesty the stuff you can find out about someone where a glove is needed isn’t something we are concerned with when thinking about heart health. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It is. As a heart surgeon I am delighted to leave this realm of orifice-related information to my fellow physicians.

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