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(StatePoint) With the national COVID-19 Public Health Emergency officially over, medical experts say it’s time to address the health challenges that may have been neglected during — or created by — the pandemic.
“Making time for you and your family’s preventive medical care and investing in your mental health is essential right now,” says Jack Resneck Jr, MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA).
“As you settle into old routines or find new ones, you may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, afraid or depressed,” Resneck added. “Give yourself permission to express these emotions, while taking steps to get needed care.”
For better health and wellness, the AMA offers these tips:
1. Stay connected: According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the health consequences of isolation include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Spending time with loved ones, friends or community groups can quickly have a positive impact on mental and physical health.
2. Practice self-care: Getting regular exercise, practicing gratitude and getting enough sleep are all forms of self-care that can improve mental health. Check out the National Institute of Mental Health’s resources, which include ideas for better understanding what causes your symptoms and what coping techniques might help you manage your mental health.
3. Know the signs: Feelings of hopelessness or irritability, loss of interest in hobbies and activities and decreased energy or appetite can all be signs of depression. If you are experiencing signs of a mental health condition, speak to your primary care physician or a psychiatrist. Be aware of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, a national hotline available 24/7. Anyone experiencing a suicidal, substance use or mental health crisis can call or text 988 to speak to trained crisis counselors.
4. Get screened: It’s estimated that since April 2020, 3.9 million breast cancer, 3.8 million colorectal cancer and 1.6 million prostate cancer diagnoses may have been missed due to pandemic-related care disruptions. If you’re due for preventive care, tests or screenings, make an appointment.
5. Don’t wait: An estimated 41% of adults with one or more chronic health conditions reported delaying or forgoing health care since the pandemic started. Additionally, one in three of those adults reported that doing so worsened one or more of their health conditions or limited their ability to work or perform other daily activities. Whether you have a chronic health condition or not, don’t wait until something is wrong before seeing a doctor. If something does feel off, schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
6. Get vaccinated: Adolescents and adult immunizations sharply declined during the pandemic and an estimated 26 million recommended vaccinations were missed in 2020 as compared to 2019. Make sure your family is up-to-date on vaccines, including the annual influenza vaccine and the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Your doctor can let you know if you’re due for a COVID booster. If you have questions, consult your physician and trusted resources, including getvaccineanswers.org.
7. Know your numbers: Track health data such as height, weight, body mass index and blood pressure in order to share trends with your doctor and take action if needed. Visit ManageYourBP.org to understand what your blood pressure numbers mean and how to get your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects millions of Americans and can increase heart attack and stroke risk.
For more tips and information, visit http://www.ama-assn.org.
“It’s vitally important to prioritize mental and physical health,” says Dr. Resneck. “Contact your health care professional to schedule the care you need to keep you and your family healthy.”