Since I started writing articles for Bloodydecks, I have always tried to write about specific health concerns while out on the water.
Although this may not catch the attention of everyone as appealing it may be the most important article I ever write.
For a lot of folks going to the doctor is something you do when you are “sick” or if something isn’t right. I hope that after reading this you will understand that just like a boat whether something is wrong or not there is a maintenance schedule that should be followed!
If you wait until something is wrong, I assure you it won’t end well in the long run.
Let’s start off with a story:
Mr. Smith is a 58 year old male who works in sales. He grew up fishing and hunting with his father, who he had lost a year ago to a stroke. He is married, has two boys, and one pudelpointer (named dingo). His marriage has had its up and downs but its going well. He has healthy sons and tries to take them fishing and hunting whenever he gets a chance. He has had a few stressful years with work but at the moment things are ok. He never sees a doctor unless he feels like he needs some antibiotics or another medication to get through a cough, sore throat, or fever. If this is the case he usually goes to an urgent care and sees whoever is available. He does not have a primary care doctor. He has no idea what his blood pressure is. Has no idea what his cholesterol is. He knows he had some older family members have heart attacks but doesn’t really know the details. He doesn’t eat “terrible.” His wife usually cooks good meals. She knows he likes meat and they usually have a meat dish every night. He tries to stay away from fast food but it happens occasionally. He is overweight, his height is 5’10 and he weighs 240-pounds. He doesn’t think much of it because he isn’t as big as a few of his other friends. He use to exercise a little but just doesn’t have time for it anymore and since he’s so out of shape he says he doesn’t enjoy it anymore. If you ask him about his family he says “I would do anything for them.”
One morning while doing some yard work he “just doesn’t feel right.”
He can’t quite pinpoint what’s going on. He goes to take a cool shower when he begins to get chest pain. He doesn’t recall feeling it go down his left arm or into his jaw. Luckily he is able to call 911. When he gets to the hospital the emergency medicine physician hooks him up to an EKG to take a look at the rate and rhythm of his heart. Sure enough he has ST elevations in his EKG leads in II, III, aVF (he is having a heart attack). This is a type of heart attack caught in the moment. He gets rushed to the cath lab, where they thread a wire up his groin and into his coronary arteries and deploy 2 stents (Drug eluting stents) into his left anterior descending coronary artery. He meets with the cardiologist afterwards and the next morning who tells him to take Plavix (keeps platelets from coming together), statin (lower cholesterol), and Ace Inhibitor (blood pressure medication). He gets sent home to follow up in 2-3 days as an outpatient.
This guy is really lucky. Some heart attacks have little warning and are fatal. I can assure you this though. This guy is now worried about his health and not being there for his family.
Sorry to start off this way but this is real life. It can actually end much worse. My hopes are for you to think about this now and make changes before its too late.
Ok so lets learn some things.
What do people die from? Take a look at the below table. It shows causes of death from most to least common in each age group. There’s a few things you can take away from this. When you are young you should be relatively healthy. Your death risks are from an accident, cancer (usually not preventable/ genetic), another person, or yourself. As you get older we start to see the big three come into play heart disease, cancer, and lung disease.
Ok now lets show one more table before we discuss this a little more. If we look at Cancer, what do people get most commonly and what do they actually die from. As you can see it’s a little different for men and woman, but the big ones are lung cancer, prostate/breast cancer, and colon cancer.
I will say some folks are just not dealt a great deck of cards from the beginning. But they are the exception to the rule. So lets look at this logically. Common things being common, to live longer you need to avoid heart disease, cancer (lung, prostate/breast, and colon cancer), and lung disease.
Remember everyone is an individual and sometimes you fall outside the norm, thus requiring individualized care but lets simplify this a bit.
Heart disease: It’s not all heart attacks but that’s the majority so we will focus on that. Just like pipes take time to clog, so do coronary arteries. If you think of it this way its really your younger years that dictate your future heart health (so don’t wait). We are talking about uncontrolled blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor diet, and little exercise. Fix this early and stay on it and you are looking good. Even if you are older, it’s never too late.
- Lung cancer: yes folks that don’t smoke can get lung cancer too but common things being common, SMOKING is the culprit. This is everywhere in the fishing industry. If you are a heavy smoker we can pretty much say you will 100% have negative consequences in the future from it. This is another great example how it doesn’t seem real until you do get those problems (you smoke a lot in your 20’s and 30’s without any problems, but they will be there as you age I promise). It’s a bummer, we’ve all lost family members due to this. So if you stop smoking or never start you are looking good here.
- Prostate/Breast Cancer: We have screening tests to try and pick these up early. Discuss this with your doctor. The entire point of screening is even if they find something it may be early enough to remove it and have no effect on life expectancy. Do your screenings and you are looking good here. Age 40-50 to start thinking about this depending on risk factors, but talk to your doctor to determine your schedule.
- Colon Cancer: We have screening tests for this. Colonoscopy. Usually done at age 50 or earlier if you have immediate family members with history of disease. I cant tell you how many folks I have seen who come in with a symptom (constipation, blood in stool, etc..), never had a colonoscopy, and end up having cancer that has progressed too far to be cured. Its frustrating, if this guy or girl would have gotten his routine screenings even if we found it we may have been able to remove it and tell him you are cured. PLEASE PLEASE think about this.
- Lung disease: This once again usually relates to the sequelae of smoking. Like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). STOP smoking or never start and you are looking good here.
So this is taking care of the general population. Its also important to factor in an individualized risks you may have. Ex: If you are in the sun a lot. Then skin cancer is another thing you need to be aware of.
You should not have to worry about these things. That’s why there are doctors! So if you are asking well what should I be worried about or when should I see a doctor. Thats easy start now. Find a primary doctor you like, go introduce yourself, tell them you want to start a program to come in for health checks.
If you have a good mechanic and stay on top of your boat maintenance it runs longer!
If you don’t like your doctor, find once you like and can trust!
Take a look at this site below. It allows you to type in your age and risk factors and it will tell you what you should be screened for. Its great to have this knowledge but go see your doctor. Don’t be scared to remind them you are in the sun a lot, you have a lot of sex, or you drink too much alcohol. It’s a team effort the more they know the more they can help!
Lastly, I will say this is all easier said than done. However, when you think about how you would do anything for your loved ones, it starts with taking care of yourself.
- Health is one thing many folks take for granted. If you wait for the problem to arise it may not end well
- Stop smoking or never start
- Create a maintenance schedule for yourself with your doctor
- Stay on top of your screening tests, even if they find cancer it could still be curable
- Eat well + exercise regularly = Better mental and physical health
I hope those of you who made it to the end learned something from this article. As always if anyone has any questions please do not hesitate to send me a message bgeno1226.