By Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP
February is National Self-check Month. This awareness month serves as a reminder that we must take charge of our own health to increase our chances of avoiding chronic diseases or other preventable conditions.
While it is strongly encouraged that you see your health care provider — like a nurse practitioner (NP) — for regular physicals and checkups, there are several self-checks you can perform at home to monitor your own health.
Take your temperature.
A high temperature can be indicative of a health issue, such as a bacterial or viral infection, so checking your temperature can often be the first line of defense in identifying a potential problem. A normal temperature for an adult is around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a good idea to take your temperature when you’re in good health, so you know what your personal base range is.
Men, be sure to check your testicles.
Men should perform regular checks of their testicles. This will enable the detection of unusual lumps or swelling, which could be an indication of cancer. Checking frequently will enable the detection of an abnormality. If you feel any unusual lumps or swelling, contact your NP or other health care provider for additional screenings.
Women, be sure to check your breasts.
It is equally important that women perform self-examinations of their breasts regularly. It is important to check often so you can more easily spot any abnormal lumps, thickening or bumps. Be sure to check for changes to the nipples or skin. Any of these issues could be signs of cancer, and you should consult your provider if detected.
Blood pressure checks are vital.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for many health conditions like stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney disease. Oftentimes with these conditions, there are no visible warning signs, making frequent checks of your blood pressure incredibly important. Normal blood pressure for adults is between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is high, cutting out alcohol or salt may help, as well as losing weight and exercising regularly. However, it is highly recommended that you consult with your health care provider.
Scan for skin cancer.
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, and it is easy to screen for the issue. Check yourself at least once a month for new growths or moles that have changed or started to itch, bleed, burn or crust over. If you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your health care provider.
This year, commit to taking charge of your own health and being your own best advocate. By taking these simple steps to perform self-health checks, you will put yourself on the path to a healthier 2021.