Health and Well-being Preventative Care

What you can do for your health

Dr. Aaron Michelfelder (MD '97) went into family medicine because he prioritized relationships. As a general practitioner for Loyola Medicine, he gets to treat the same patients for years, even decades, assisting them through life’s ups and downs. Prevention is a constant talking point; Michelfelder—who also serves as the Stritch School of Medicine’s Chair and Professor of Family Medicine—wants his patients to stay as functional as possible for as long as they can. Doing so requires both thoughtfulness and pragmatism. “I’m very practical,” Michelfelder said. “I try to get people to make simple, small, and meaningful changes to improve their health.”

See a primary care physician

Even if you’re feeling peachy, it’s never bad to get a tune-up. Michelfelder and other family doctors have specific recommendations to personalize prevention, based on family history, lifestyle, and other risk factors. Annual physicals should start around age 50. If you’re reasonably healthy and still in your 30s or 40s, a check-up every other year should do.

Get out and move around

If you pump at the gym three or four times a week, that’s great! If you can’t, don’t beat yourself up. “When you go to the mall, don’t wait and fight for the closest parking spot. Park far away,” said Michelfelder. “When you’re in a building with stairs, don’t use an elevator for three floors or less. I’m always looking for little ways to increase my movement in my day. Over a lifetime, that really adds up.”

Watch your serving sizes

Though it matters what we eat, how much we eat is nearly as important. You can shed a pound or two a week simply by decreasing your calorie count by 500 per day. That’s the equivalent of one Krispy Kreme donut or a plain bagel with cream cheese. “Take what you would normally eat and put one-quarter of it back,” Michelfelder said. “Or when you go to a restaurant, get a to-go container and, before you eat, put a portion in the container and shut it.”

Check your snoring

Michelfelder considers sleep apnea, a disorder in which breathing stops and starts overnight, “one of the most under-treated issues out there.” Left undiagnosed, it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, and heart attacks. Soon enough, our wearables will be able to track irregular heart rhythms reliably. Until then, lean on your significant other; if he or she notices any nighttime abnormalities, consult a doctor right away.

Remember that flu shot

Flu shots are safe, affordable, and easy to obtain. During peak flu season (December through February), Michelfelder stresses vaccination for his most vulnerable clients—the elderly, children, people with certain chronic conditions. “And the best way we protect the most vulnerable is by vaccinating everybody, and decreasing cases in general.” Wash your hands a few times each day, while you’re at it.

Don’t be scared of needles

On top of his traditional medical training, Michelfelder is a licensed acupuncturist. Poking very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body is an ancient art, dating back millennia in Asia. “We have good scientific evidence that acupuncture helps our migraines, fibromyalgia, and pains in the neck, back, and knees,” Michelfelder said. “Patients always get an endorphin release with acupuncture, that runner’s high.”

Be mindful

Protecting one’s mental health goes part and parcel with protecting the physical body. “Small amounts of meditation, even if it’s two or three minutes per day, can help,” said Michelfelder. “Same with reflective writing, reading, getting into nature.” People shouldn’t hesitate to seek out a counselor, either: “Who couldn’t use a personal trainer to help us exercise better? It’s the same thing with a psychologist or therapist.”

The path to health and well-being

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