5 health mistakes everyone makes

Don’t let small unhealthy habits add up into big health concerns. Find out the most common mistakes people make when it comes to their health’and how to avoid them

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worried patient with doctor

Common health mistakes

While it’s true that nobody’s perfect-we all slip up now and then-it’s important to remember that small mistakes can add up to serious health problems down the road. Best Health spoke to Dr. Lori Coman-Wood, a physician with the Medcan Clinic in Toronto, to learn about the common health mistakes she sees in her clinical practice, and how to avoid these pitfalls.

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1. Not taking your medication

Not taking medication as directed is a top health mistake. Some people stop taking medication when they feel well, but this can be harmful. For example, failing to finish a course of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria.

As well, many patients stop taking their medication for hypertension, which is one of the most undertreated prevalent diseases. Compliance with a course of treatment and regular checks are critical to managing this chronic disease, but some people disregard their medication after only a few weeks because they feel well. When they don’t see their doctor for many months, these patients can develop significantly elevated blood pressure, a key risk for heart attack and stroke.

While you may begin to feel better after taking medication as prescribed, don’t assume that this means your health issue has been resolved. Always consult your doctor before making any major changes to your treatment.

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2. Putting off your annual physical

While we often think of men as more likely to put off going to the doctor, this is a major problem with women, who tend to put family and work responsibilities ahead of their own needs. However, women risk their health when they ignore significant issues, such as a breast lump or chest pain. Women often present with less severe chest pain, more nausea and they may minimize their symptoms, which may be some of the reasons why women don’t receive the same level of cardiac care as men. However, heart disease is the number-two killer among both women and men in Canada, and early detection offers the best chance at a positive outcome.


While you may think your employer disapproves of time taken off work for doctor’s visits, in truth, many employers promote health as a priority and support time off to complete a comprehensive health assessment. Schedule your physical and coordinate the timing of your appointments so that you can maximize your time. When possible, Coman-Wood recommends obtaining test requisitions ahead of time so that the results are available at your appointment.

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embarrassed woman

3. Letting fear stand in the way

Many people worry silently about an issue because they are too afraid to ask their doctor. Patients can be particularly nervous about raising issues about mental or sexual health. Coman-Wood advises that it is far better to speak up and seek helpful treatment than to suffer with the problem. She says that while you may be embarrassed, the doctor is not. If you find it difficult to ask out loud, write a list ahead of time and hand it to your doctor so that he or she can bring up the topic first.

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pap test

4. Not making primary prevention a priority

All too often, we only pay attention to our health when we have a problem, but it’s far better to make preventive health a priority rather than operate from a reactive perspective. Primary prevention means looking after your total health in advance, before you develop a problem. Make sure you are not focusing on one or two healthy behaviours while ignoring other poor lifestyle choices. For example, exercising regularly but eating sodium-laden foods can still result in problems that that are more difficult to treat down the road.



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woman at computer

5. Acting on unsubstantiated medical information

Many people turn to friends or the Internet for a consult about a health concern. This can provide some preliminary information, but becomes a problem when people rely on untrustworthy sources to self-diagnose-or worse, attempt a dangerous, unproven treatment. Keep in mind that products available on the Internet may have been produced in a country that doesn’t share the manufacturing standards found in Canada, and could potentially do more harm than good.

If faced with a medical concern, you should depend on your healthcare provider’s professional training and many years of clinical experience. Protocols recommended are based on reputable, evidence-based studies. If you want learn more about a particular concern, Coman-Wood recommends health sites that are linked to large medical schools, such as Johns Hopkins Health Alerts, Harvard Health Publications, or Cleveland Clinic. You can also find reports on evidence-based studies from reputable medical journals at your public library or local hospital library.


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