By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group
Fall in New England has arrived, my favorite time of year! The air is a little crisp in the mornings, the sky is bright blue and there is a feeling of new beginnings all around. I have the same thoughts at this time of year that I’ve had since I was a kid: it’s going back to school time! I always liked getting ready for school from early grade school through grad school. As an adult, my approach is different in some ways than my mother’s was 40 years ago, but in many ways it’s the same. I take stock of life around me, try to get organized and enjoy this new beginning. This time of year offers another opportunity, too. It’s a great time to give yourself the gift of a health maintenance check up and take a look at what you need to do to stay healthy.
Let’s start with your immunization status. The most common immunizations are the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine. The flu vaccine is an annual single injection that protects against both the seasonal flu and H1N1 (if you’re allergic to eggs you shouldn’t get this vaccine, and postpone getting it if you’re sick with a fever). The pneumococcal vaccine is given to people 65 and older, and to people with chronic medical conditions. A booster is suggested in 5 years, but at this time there is no recommendation to booster after that point. Two other vaccinations to be aware of are tetanus and shingles vaccines. The tetanus vaccine is for the prevention of tetanus disease (commonly referred to as lockjaw), a disease that affects the central nervous system caused when the skin is broken with a dirty object. It needs to be updated every 10 years across the lifespan. The shingles vaccine, also available for people over the age of 60, is for the prevention of herpes zoster or shingles, a disease caused by the varicella zoster virus (the same virus that causes chicken pox). Now, there are instances when these vaccines may not be ideal for you. These are general suggestions and you need to speak with your health care provider to decide what is best for you.
The change in seasons is also a good time to check up on your Diabetes self-care. Take an inventory of how things are going. Are you up to date with your eye exam? A dilated exam needs to be done at least annually to screen for retinopathy. When was the last time you saw the dentist? It’s good practice to get an exam and cleaning every 6 months to decrease the chances for infection. Have you seen the podiatrist for an evaluation? It’s a good idea to have your feet examined at least annually. Have you seen your Diabetes educator this year? This is a great opportunity to go over your personal Diabetes program and review your home readings to see if they are at goal—and if not, identify strategies to help you to achieve goal. It’s also a chance to meet with the dietitian to review and make any necessary changes to your meal plan. An update of your target lab tests can be done as well if they are due. Remember that you’re A1C and lipids need to be checked every 6 months generally.
The reality is that we all live busy packed lives and it’s always good to take a break and check in with yourself and see what you need to do take care of yourself. So think of what I’ve outlined above as your homework assignment. Grab a new notebook and spend some time with yourself to decide what YOU need to do for YOU. You’ll be glad you did.