Embracing Proactive Healthcare
A naturopathic doctor’s tips for rē•centering our wellness routines on prevention.
It’s common to start a doctor’s appointment seeking advice about a current concern. But, unfortunately, when it comes to our health, we tend to operate reactively rather than proactively — especially when looking for solutions to what might be ailing us. Often, we notice when something isn’t functioning optimally and try to correct the issue after the fact. By practicing proactive healthcare, we can instead tackle health problems at their root.
What is proactive healthcare?
For Dr. Naika Apeakorang, a naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, herbalist, and wellness facilitator, proactive healthcare aligns with preventative healthcare. She tells rē•spin, “It’s about taking the necessary steps every day to optimize your health, minimize harm, and create systems in your life which support the promotion of wellness.”
This type of approach to healthcare relies on being engaged in what she calls “consistent health-promoting behavior” — not just at moments when you feel like you must. As Dr. Apeakorang explains, proactive healthcare is fueled by self-love and self-care.
Integrative medicine itself is a means of practicing proactive healthcare today. As Dr. Apeakorang explains, this approach is holistic and creates a bond between the varying facets of our lives, including our physical, mental, emotional, socio-cultural, and spiritual health. “That holistic paradigm encourages balance, which we can achieve by giving attention to all of those arenas to create a cohesive sense of wellness,” she says.
The benefits of being proactive, not reactive
Even if you’ve been historically reactive regarding your health, adopting more proactive methods can make all the difference in the future. Dr. Apeakorang cites the “prevention is better than cure” adage. “When we center our wellness in prevention, we prevent or prolong chronic health issues from presenting, we save ourselves and the healthcare system money, and we feel more vital and empowered in our everyday experience,” she says.
For many of us, it can often be more accessible — and feel more natural — to be more reactive with our health because there’s a problem to which we can respond. Dr. Apeakorang says that can create a sense of urgency for us to act upon, but it also helps us focus. However, a healthier approach is to be consistent and committed to the steps in our daily wellness routines to prevent the problem in the first place, eliminating the need for us to react to a health crisis.
How to proactively rē•spin your wellness routines
A routine change will naturally differ for everyone, depending on your current lifestyle and overall goals. Dr. Apeakorang offers several suggestions for ways to be more proactive about your health, including:
- Making hydration a priority
- Eating a nutritious, balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. When avoiding ingredients, it’s best to cut out foods you have an allergy or sensitivity to, whether that’s sugar, fried food, processed foods, etc. For a change in diet, Dr. Apeakorang emphasizes being gentle with oneself and patient; small, gradual changes can make all the difference.
- Incorporating movement into your day. If you don’t have a routine, test different regimes and find the best practices. It’s all about moving your body and evoking joy from it.
- Taking care of your mental health daily. This can be through mindfulness practices, journaling to document your thoughts and feelings, or engaging in talk therapy. “It’s easy to neglect ourselves as stress accumulates, so it’s important to be intentional with our self-care to protect our mental health,” Dr. Apeakorang explains.
- Managing your routine visits. It’s essential to stay on top of annual visits, physicals, and lab work, especially if you have health issues in your family history. Dr. Apeakorang sees a mental and physical difference in clients who have an honest picture of their current health, allowing her to collaborate with them on a proactive action plan moving forward.
“I believe we heal our world by first healing ourselves,” she explains. “When we prioritize our happiness and peace, it becomes more natural to take measures to create that happiness and peace for others around us. It’s a ripple effect of healing that starts with us.”