As much as we love healthcare workers and appreciate their kindness, let's face it–nobody wants a trip to the ER. It's unlikely you'll never visit one at least once in your life, but there are ways to help prevent going more than necessary. Good health habits and lifestyle choices help cut back on avoidable stays in the hospital and Eat This, Not That Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares her tips on staying healthy. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Hospitals Are Usually Last Resorts
Dr. Mitchell says, "Admission to the hospital isn't a quick fix for ailments-it's usually the last resort. By the time most people are admitted to the hospital, they're already quite sick and need intensive medical care. In many cases, hospitalization is necessary to save lives. However, it's important to remember that admission to the hospital is not a cure-all. Patients will still need follow-up care after they're discharged from the hospital to recover fully.
In some cases, this may include ongoing treatment from a specialist or therapy to help manage symptoms. For many people, the road to recovery is long and complicated, but it's important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. With dedicated medical care and support, patients can make a full recovery and return to their everyday lives. I will give you case studies of typical scenarios where someone might end up in the hospital as ways to avoid it."
Meet Theo, Age 55
Dr. Mitchell explains, "Theo presented to a busy downtown hospital, complaining that he had stomach pains that weren't relieved by Pepto Bismol. He complains of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and constantly going to the bathroom. His skin was dry, and his mouth felt dry. Upon further questioning, he denied having any alcohol recently and hadn't been in contact with sick people. He also lamented that his 'sugar daddy' ways were dying, as he was having troubles in the bedroom. He reports he didn't think anything was wrong until a few days ago. He said, as far as his health goes, 'if it ain't broke, then don't fix it,' and generally avoids the doctor's office.
Weight: 290lbs, 5'8
Social History: Social drinker, smokes 1/2 pack of cigarettes daily, married with two kids, travels frequently.
Employment: Self-Employed Investor.
Past Medical History: Pancreatitis, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD, AKA Heartburn).
Diagnosis: Theo had undiagnosed diabetes and presented with a severe and potentially fatal condition called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (aka DKA). DKA is a medical emergency that can occur in people with diabetes when their blood sugar is too high and they cannot produce enough insulin. DKA can lead to several serious complications, including diabetic coma and death. Early symptoms of DKA include thirst, frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, DKA can cause the body to go into shock and can lead to organ damage. DKA is most often diagnosed in people with type 1 diabetes but can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes. Treatment for DKA typically involves giving the person insulin to lower their blood sugar and rehydrating them with fluids. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary. However, with prompt treatment, most people with DKA fully recover.
Theo has many risk factors that increase his risk of ending up in the hospital. Here are a few:"
Too Short for His Weight
Dr. Mitchell states, "Theo was considered medically obese. Theo would have benefited from regular physical activity. Obesity is a significant risk factor for several chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These conditions are some of the leading causes of hospitalization in the United States. Obese adults are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized as adults of healthy weight. There are several reasons why obesity increases the risk of hospitalization. First, obese individuals are more likely to develop chronic health conditions that require hospital care. Second, obese individuals often have difficulty moving and may require special medical equipment or assistance. Finally, obesity can complicate the course of treatment for many medical conditions. For example, obese patients may be less responsive to medications or more likely to experience side effects from medicines.
Fortunately, there are several things that people can do to reduce their risk of hospitalization due to obesity. Firstly, they can work to maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Secondly, they can manage chronic health conditions with their healthcare provider. Finally, they can be sure to get regular checkups and screenings to detect any potential problems early. By taking these steps, people can significantly reduce their risk of being hospitalized due to obesity."
Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "Age isn't a modifiable risk factor, as aging occurs to everyone, whether they like it or not. There are several reasons why older adults are more likely to be hospitalized than younger people. For one, as we age, our bodies become less able to fight off infection and disease. At the same time, chronic health conditions become more familiar with age, leading to hospitalization. In addition, life choices and circumstances (such as retirement and widowhood) often result in social isolation, making older adults more vulnerable to health problems. Finally, as we age, our cognitive abilities often decline, making managing our health care needs more difficult. All of these factors contribute to the increased risk of hospitalization among older adults. However, some steps can be taken to reduce this risk, such as staying socially connected, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular medical checkups. By taking these steps, older adults can help to keep themselves fit and reduce their risk of hospitalization."
He Doesn't Have Regular Preventative Screening Tests
Dr. Mitchell reminds us, "Skipping preventative screening exams can have serious consequences. These exams are important because they can help to diagnose potentially life-threatening conditions, such as diabetes, early. In addition, preventative exams can help identify risk factors for other diseases. For example, a blood pressure screening can help detect hypertension, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Screening exams are, therefore, an essential part of maintaining good health. However, many skip these exams because they are busy or do not have health insurance. This is a dangerous decision, as it can lead to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Therefore, making time for preventative screenings and finding a healthcare provider who offers these services is essential."
"Alcohol use can increase your risk of being hospitalized for several reasons," Dr. Mitchell says. "First, alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which can cause several health problems. Second, alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, leading to hospitalization in people with diabetes. Finally, alcohol use can increase the risk of injuries, including car accidents and falls. You can do a few things if you are concerned about your risk of being hospitalized due to alcohol use. First, limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day. Second, drink plenty of water when you are drinking alcohol to stay hydrated. Finally, avoid drinking alcohol before driving or engaging in other activities that could be dangerous. Taking these precautions can help reduce your risk of being hospitalized due to alcohol use."
Dr. Mitchell tells us, "Smoking is a well-known risk factor for many severe health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. But did you know smoking can also increase your risk of being hospitalized? Studies have shown that smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to be hospitalized for various conditions, including respiratory illnesses, infections, and pregnancy complications. And the risks are even more significant for those who smoke heavily or have been smoking for many years.
Smoking is also a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body is unable to properly use insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. People who smoke are more than twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop type 2 diabetes. And the risks are even higher for those who smoke heavily or have been smoking for many years. If you're a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to protect your health. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking and ways to help you stop successfully."
Dr. Mitchell shares, "Theo has a double life, and extramarital activities impacted him more than he realized. It can increase stress when people lie to their partners and have to cover up their actions. This increased stress can negatively impact a person's physical health and even lead to hospitalization. For example, when someone is under a lot of stress, their body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has several adverse effects on the body, including increasing blood pressure and heart rate, suppressing the immune system, and causing inflammation. Chronically high cortisol levels can lead to several health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and even heart disease. In extreme cases, the stress of lying and covering up one's actions can lead to a complete mental breakdown, resulting in hospitalization. Lying and covering up one's actions is not only stressful for the person doing it, but it can also have severe consequences for their health."
"Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem for men with diabetes," Dr. Mitchell explains. "It can be an early sign of diabetes-related cardiovascular disease, and men with ED are more likely to experience worse outcomes for their diabetes and be hospitalized. While the exact mechanisms by which diabetes leads to ED are not fully understood, it is thought that the condition damages blood vessels and nerves, leading to impaired erectile function. In addition, diabetes-related inflammation and hormonal imbalances may also contribute to ED. Whatever the underlying cause, treating ED is essential for the physical and mental health of men with diabetes. In addition to impacting sexual function, ED can lead to low self-esteem and relationship problems. Fortunately, many effective treatments are available for men with diabetes-related ED, including lifestyle changes, oral medications, injections, and surgery. If you are experiencing ED, talk to your doctor about what treatment options may suit you."
High Fructose Diet
Dr. Mitchell says, "Corn syrup and other sugars are often used as sweeteners in processed foods. While they may make these foods more palatable, they can also significantly negatively impact health. Consuming large amounts of corn syrup can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, it can increase the chances of hospitalization due to heart disease or stroke. Therefore, limiting corn syrup and other sugar intake is essential to help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic health conditions."
Don't Live Your Life Like Theo
"The moral of this story is don't be a Theo," Dr. Mitchell states. "If we are all honest with ourselves, we have presently done or have done in the past things that will increase your risk of illness and hospitalization. However, it's better to make those changes later in our lives than never."