By JULIE RAMBIN, Ranger Reporter:
Preventative care is important for overall health, but how many students can afford to go to the doctor when they’re not sick? As healthcare costs increase, it’s more necessary than ever for students to take care of themselves: in consuming healthy food, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress levels. A healthcare provider you see regularly can help to support your overall health, and low-cost or no-cost options are available in the community.
I would advise that students go in for an annual physical,” said Sarah Milford, registered nurse and AC nursing instructor. “You don’t have to be sick to go in. Go in when you’re healthy so we can evaluate your status. They look at your family history and evaluate your risk.”
Even young people can be at high risk of serious health problems. One particular concern Milford has seen among students is high blood pressure, or hypertension, which frequently has no symptoms, but can lead to significant problems such as heart disease and stroke.
“It’s called the silent killer,” Milford said. “If it’s caught and treated early, you have a much smaller risk of serious complications.”
A healthy diet low in sodium, as well as regular exercise, can reduce a student’s risk of hypertension. Some people may require medications to keep their blood pressure within the normal range.
“If you’ve had elevated blood pressure for a long time, you don’t notice,” Milford said. “If you’re not going to the doctor, how do you know?”
One serious health concern among many Americans is a lack of vaccinations. “People are electing not to vaccinate,” Milford said. “There has been a lot of information in the media by a lot of movie stars and famous people that vaccination caused autism.” According to the CDC and the Institute of Medicine, as well as numerous scientific studies, there is no link between childhood vaccinations and autism. “There’s always a risk of a side effect of a vaccination, but the benefits are so much more,” Milford said. “We’re facing that backlash,” from parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. Measles, mumps and pertussis, which were once essentially eradicated from the US, are making a comeback.
Measles is a serious disease which kills children worldwide, but even if children recovers, they can develop severe complications years later. Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is a fatal complication of measles, which develops in a previously healthy child or young person six to ten years after recovery from measles. SSPE causes severe and progressive neurological symptoms leading to death, and there is no cure except prevention by measles vaccination.
Not all children can be vaccinated – infants and the immunocompromised can only be protected from illness by the immunity of others, which is called community or herd immunity. Herd immunity means that if almost everyone in a community is vaccinated, the likelihood of an outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease is low, which protects those who cannot be vaccinated.
Pertussis is of particular concern for people who care for or live with an infant, since it’s possible to be a carrier for pertussis without feeling ill, and this infection in an infant typically requires hospitalization. “They recommend that you have a booster shot for pertussis if you’re going to be around an infant, to help protect that infant,” Milford said.
Even if a student doesn’t have health insurance, vaccinations can be very affordable. “You can get low cost vaccinations through the health department,” Milford said. “It’s for any age and if you have not been vaccinated, you go in and you fill out some paperwork. If you get multiple vaccinations it’s discounted.”
Preventative care, vaccinations, and a healthy lifestyle are likely to reduce the risk of serious illness and associated high healthcare costs, Milford said. “Overall, prevention, nutrition and exercise,” are the simplest and most effective ways to keep fit, stay healthy, and reduce the cost of your healthcare. “If you have good nutrition, you’re supporting your body systems. Exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension,” Milford said. “Chronic stress, lack of sleep, poor eating habits: these things contribute to poor health.”