Editor's Note: Our CMO, Kristin P. Richardson, opens up and gets real about her experience with a PartnerMD Advanced Physical. We are grateful for her candor about the impact of the results and in sharing details about her personal health and wellness.
I’m about to enter my “mid-forties” and I’ve really never been to the doctor in my adult life. Sure I’ve tried an urgent care here and there when I couldn’t get a cough to go away. A midwife delivered my two babies. A nurse practitioner used to do a gynecology exam, but I was always horrible about going every year. So now I wake up middle-aged, with two small kids, a husband and a full-time job outside the home. Sure, I can stand to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight, but isn’t that almost every mom out there? And sure, I could have stood to lose another 10 pounds even before the babies, but again, isn’t that almost everyone out there? I figured I was pretty healthy if I was rarely sick, could run 10ks, and ate vegan most days.
Who has time to be healthier or get a physical if you’re feeling fine? But are we really … feeling fine? I can barely balance my daily life with a demanding, albeit rewarding, job as head of Sales and Marketing at PartnerMD, my husband’s demanding job as a lawyer, and two mischievous girls ages 4 and 2. They don’t sleep well, so neither do we. They’ve caused my diet to slip more into eating whatever is left on their plate, and less into local, organic veggies and lentils. I am more concerned about the lack of protein in their lunch boxes than my lack of a mammogram or pap smear. I push myself every day at work so hard that I rarely eat lunch other than protein bars at my desk; I rarely drink water so that I don’t have to waste time going to the bathroom; and I have turned caffeine into a food group. So am I really feeling fine?
You’re buying what?
In 2015, my husband became a member at PartnerMD when his physician, Dr. Joy Rowe, joined the practice. He even invested in the advanced physical to get a more in-depth picture of his current health status and a more comprehensive plan of action beyond the standard PartnerMD physical which is already better than at a traditional practice. Admittedly I didn’t quite understand why he was joining when he seemed healthy to me. What I did know however was that my husband prioritized his health pretty high up thanks to a family history of cancer, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. I dismissed it a bit though as “must be nice to have time to do that for yourself.” He tried to get me to do the same, but I said I was too busy. Ah, the irony.
Flash forward two years to 2017 when I decided to make a career jump and lead marketing at PartnerMD. As a business leader responsible for leading marketing and selling PartnerMD, I figured I needed to experience it first-hand so that I could better understand it and talk about it genuinely to others. Plus wouldn’t it be convenient to finally understand my own health status. Again, I figured I was pretty healthy other than needing to lose a few pounds and work on balancing my life, but I had no idea what was to come.
My Day of Reckoning
On Wednesday, January 24, our PartnerMD team scheduled me for a full day from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm of time with my doctor, nurse, fitness trainer, integrative health coach, executive coach, physical therapist, mindfulness coach, registered dietitian, and massage therapist. This is on top of scans of my heart and arteries including a CT heart scan, vascular scan, CIMT and EKG. Plus I came in a couple of weeks early to have blood drawn for the extensive lab work sent off to the Cleveland HeartLab. It was daunting, but I was excited to immerse myself in a day of health, and learn as much as I could from the experience. I didn’t realize that my life – and my perspective on my life – would forever be changed.
We were only 10 minutes into my first appointment and I learned that I had 25 extra pounds of fat. That’s not 25 total, that’s 25 extra. Yep, thank goodness for Lycra. Then I learned that my LDL – the bad cholesterol – was 61 points higher than it should be. And if that wasn’t enough, I learned that I am in the minority of the population that has the ApoE3/E4 genetic marker. This makes me more likely to have cardiovascular disease, heart attack and – wait for it – Alzheimer's. And to make it even worse, my body is less likely to respond to statins to help with high cholesterol and heart disease. So even if I was open to taking drugs, they won’t work as well for me, if at all. I remind you, it’s still the morning.
As the day continued, I learned I was in the 99th percentile for Type A personality. That’s not a badge of honor. You combine that tendency to push oneself to the limit with a stressful schedule, poor exercise, diet and sleep, plus some bad genetic markers on top, and you’ve got a recipe that doesn’t end well. My mindfulness coach worked with me on breathing and visualization exercises that have greatly helped, especially during temper tantrums by my four-year old. My integrative health coach has helped me set reasonable goals to start small on improving stress, hydration, diet and exercise. She even coached me on how to talk with my husband about greater sharing of responsibilities at home. My trainer showed me a library of amazing free videos on YouTube even if you only have 10 minutes available. And my dietitian gave me new achievable ways to integrate more nutrition and protein into my diet to keep my glucose levels steady throughout the day. What an easy idea to make three lunches every night instead of just two! Plus I have to work on decreasing caffeine and improving sleep if I’m going to ward off that Alzheimer's. And lastly, the amazing Dr. Michelle Headley pulled it all together as a comprehensive plan taking into consideration my clinical lab results and working in partnership with all of these experts. Since I’m a member of PartnerMD, I now get to continue working with her and my health coach on my progress.
What’s the Value of Your Health?
PartnerMD offers several levels of advanced physicals based on what you’re looking to dive into and experience in one day. Companies even buy them for their employees in order to improve their health and make sure they’re able to be as productive as possible in the short and long term. For me, I went with a middle of the road package knowing that my husband was encouraging me to do this. I know some people may say that $2500 is ridiculously expensive. Admittedly, a part of me even wondered that going into my day, and I work for PartnerMD! But less than two hours into it, I was eternally grateful to know what I know so that I can make smarter choices now - for me and my family. Knowing what I know, I would have paid even more because as a smart friend once said to me, “What’s more valuable than your health?” I’m forever grateful that my husband really pushed me to do it. He wanted to see me put my health first, and even now, he’s open to making small changes in our family’s daily life so that I can have more time to continue to put myself first. Because in the end, it helps our whole family.
Putting Me First
Sometimes we find out that our health is better than we feared. Sometimes we find out it’s unfortunately worse. For better or for worse, isn’t it good to accurately know what you’re dealing with? And how can you really know unless you take advantage of the latest that’s out there? From advanced lab work to understanding how your emotional health plays a huge role in your physical health, it’s all connected.
I hope more people will put themselves first this year. Let’s stop putting our own needs last and put our health first. There’s no prize in being unhealthy, stressed out, dehydrated, exhausted and ignorant about our health.
Join my husband and me and give the gift of health to someone you love. Want to show your partner that you really love them? Then buy it for both of you. Because surprise, spouses actually want you to be around a really long time.
Join the movement of Putting Me First. I’ll see you at the water cooler.