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Milt Hankins: Take a proactive role in guarding your health

The Herald-Dispatch - 12/4/2017

As I am occasionally wont to do, the other day I found myself waxing philosophic. Having come through a spell of ill-health, but on the mend, I got to thinking about the importance of taking care of oneself.

It is an "every-body" concern (pun intended) - how important it is to develop healthy attitudes, change (if we can) those habits that endanger our health, and schedule the myriad of tests, surveys and scans that can alert us to possible oncoming bouts of severe illness and/or death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year - that's 1 in every 4 deaths."

Almost every day I notice opportunities for physical examinations sponsored by local medical groups in our local newspaper. I've wondered how many people take advantage of these special services. And, hopefully, the answer is that more people than we think do so. I observe, too, the number of times health checkups are set up at local street fairs.

I am a fine example to illustrate the importance of being proactive about one's health. I'll never forget Christmas Sunday 25 years ago when I came home from the evening worship service, ate the hamburger my wife had prepared for my dinner, lit up a cigarette (yes, I smoked at that time) and within a few minutes was as sick as I'd been in my whole life.

With two feet of snow on the ground, I was rushed to the University of Virginia Medical Center 30 miles away and the day after Christmas had triple by-pass heart surgery. Those were the days when it was called "open heart" surgery and required a two-week hospital stay.

When folks (even doctors) learn I have lived 25 years since that ill-fated Sunday evening, some are astonished. I do not relate this bit of personal history for sympathy; I write about it to emphasize the importance of getting the very best available medical care.

Learn the early signs of an impending heart attack - tightness and heaviness in the chest, extreme fatigue, nausea, pain in shoulders, neck, jaw or arms, shortness of breath with or without chest pain, sweating, lightheadedness and fainting - not especially in that order and not necessarily all at once. Mine came on with extreme nausea and vomiting.

Learn the visible signs of a stroke - (FAST) Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty. Time to call 911!

If I may, I want to throw a few kudos to Cabell Huntington, St. Mary's, Kings Daughters, Our Lady of Bellefonte and, of course, our Veterans Affairs hospital. As a matter of fact, I know of no other region similar to the Tri-State that can boast as many first-rate medical centers.

Good health to all!

Milt Hankins is a theologian, former pastor and local author. His website is columnistwithaview.com.


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