We want you to stay healthy by ensuring you have a dream team of experts and supporters on your side. There are 10 baseline members we recommend having. Oh come on, you might think, that’s too many! But once you read about the benefits of each, you’ll be on board.
1. The Captain: You
You’re the one on the job daily. Only you know how you feel and what your limits are. Most times, you’re the first one to notice any problems, so listen to your body. Write down questions to ask your doctors, and take notes during visits so you can review the answers and instructions later. You are also in charge of recruiting the second most important person: your co-captain.
2. The Co-Captain: Your Primary Care Practitioner
You and your co-captain work together to guarantee you’re in tiptop shape. The main roles of your primary care practitioner are to teach you how to stay healthy and to diagnose and treat you when you’re sick. It’s important to have a practitioner with whom you’re comfortable discussing sensitive issues.
We recommend choosing an internist, family medicine certified doc or nurse practitioner. Search for a primary care practitioner that is uniquely expert at assembling the rest of your wellness team and referring you to specialists who can snoop out problems when you need medical detective work.
3. A Health Buddy
This person, usually a family member or friend, accompanies you to visits when you’re ill and helps you stick to a healthy lifestyle program. You can also have a nurse practitioner (a registered nurse with a master’s degree and possibly a doctorate who has experience educating patients) as your health buddy. A nurse practitioner can make your road to wellness easier by teaching you about your medications and getting you into a fitness program.
4. Stress Management Coach
Managing stress is crucial because excess stress can interfere with sleep, lead to weight gain and lower your immunity; stress can even worsen diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. A stress management coach will teach you techniques for keeping anxiety in check. This person can be:
• A social worker.
He or she must have a master’s degree in social work, as well as training in individual, group and family therapy. He or she can also be a licensed clinical social worker, meaning he or she has passed a state exam and holds a master’s degree.
• A psychologist.
This person usually has a doctorate in psychology (sometimes only a master’s degree) and is trained in individual, group and family psychology. A few sessions with a psychologist might help during a time that’s especially stressful. Or you can see one on a long-term basis for more lasting problems.
• A psychiatrist.
This is a medical doctor who provides counseling and can also prescribe medication to treat mental health conditions such as depression.
• Marriage and family therapists.
A licensed marriage and family therapist helps you with issues in your family, marriage or workplace. He or she should have a master’s degree or doctorate in a mental health field.
If your health insurance company doesn’t cover mental health visits, there are free or low-cost resources you can use. For example, the Cleveland Clinic offers a $40 six-week online program called Stress Free Now that teaches techniques for dealing with stress.
Related: 7 Thoughtful Ways to Stress Less
5. Dietitian or Nutrition Specialist
Food is medicine. People who eat more healthy fats, legumes, produce and whole grains—and who limit sugar, red meat and refined carbs such as white pasta and rice—are less likely to develop chronic diseases. A dietitian can help you figure out your food needs based on your desired weight, blood pressure, blood sugar level and other goals. This member of your team also can teach you to effectively assess food labels. The nutrition expert we recommend is a:
• Registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist.
This person is trained in nutrition, has a bachelor’s (or master’s) degree in a nutrition field and has passed a national exam.
If you want to go one step further, a chef trained in healthy cooking can help you improve your culinary skills. This is especially beneficial if you have to alter your diet to control a condition such as diabetes.
6. Physical Fitness Coach
If there were a drug that had as many health benefits as exercise, we’d all be on it! Exercise can help you control your blood pressure, manage your weight and reduce stress. Having someone by your side trained in the science of fitness will not only motivate you but also help you avoid injury. Your doctor can refer you to a pro. And remember: Always get your doc’s approval before starting any new fitness routine.
A pharmacist should do more than fill prescriptions or show you where the aspirin is. Pharmacists are highly trained professionals who know a lot about how medicine affects the body. It’s important to find a pharmacist you like and stick with him. This way, he can keep an up-to-date profile of your medical history, allergies and medications. Your pharmacist can also review your profile to see whether any of your current meds might interact with a new one you’re prescribed.
Dental visits are a must to care for your whole body. Gum disease is a leading cause of body-wide inflammation and can increase your risk for conditions such as diabetes. We recommend an appointment every six months for a cleaning and checkup.
9. Eye Doctor
Your peepers need regular exams because eye problems are very treatable when caught early. Your eye doctor should be an ophthalmologist—a medical doctor who provides total eye care, from vision checks to disease diagnosis and surgery. You should see your eye doc at least once a year. (Optometrists are great, too, and some ophthalmologists employ them, but they are more focused on vision care and not total eye care.)
You’ll want to find and stay with an eye doc you like because one of their main roles is to notice whether your eyes change over time.
Any condition of the skin, hair or nails should be evaluated by a dermatologist. It’s especially important to have a full-body skin check once a year after age 50, or annually at any age if you have suspicious moles or risk factors such as a family history of skin cancer, fair skin, light-colored eyes, red or blond hair, skin that’s freckled or burns easily, or a history of tanning. Most skin cancer is treatable if spotted early.
Always remember to keep your primary doctor abreast of your care with other health practitioners. He or she can still provide valuable input in tailoring your treatment plan and needs to stay in the loop so you can receive the best care. Go Team You!
This article appears in the March 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.