Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Importance of Keeping a Health Journal

Keeping a health journal can be pivotal to taking control of your health - especially if you are struggling with an unknown diagnosis, changing symptoms, or a complex illness or treatment regimen.
It is critical that you empower and engage yourself as a patient.  Knowing your symptoms and being able to communicate them accurately to your health care team can go a long way with this empowerment.

Scenario 1:
You go to the health practitioner and say, "I'm tired" and she recommends you get more sleep.
Scenario 2:
You go to the health practitioner with your health journal in hand and say, "I'm tired. Over the last month I've slept an average of 9 hours each night and I need to take a 1 hour nap at least three times each week.  I've cut out all caffeine, but I still find myself very tired.  This has been going on for two months. I brought my health journal with me for you to see."
Ah....  See the difference?  The health practitioner has a much more accurate picture of what "I'm tired" means and you have the data in hand to back it up.
You also have a list of your medications, your medical history, and the things you've tried to help.
This information gives the health practitioner more detailed information to help make appropriate suggestions.  If the practitioner knows the details of what you mean, what you have tried, what you haven't tried, etc., the practitioner can recommend appropriate testing, medications, or lifestyle changes to make.
Here are a few other ways a health journal can help you take more control of your health:

  • You will be able to recognize patterns of symptoms.
  • You will be able to identify food and lifestyle choices that aggravate your system.
  • Recording daily your sleep, exercise, diet, etc. will help you from getting off track by keeping you aware of what you are and are not doing.
  • You will have an objective record to reference.
  • As you track data, you will see your progress and stay motivated to keep on track with your health regimen.
  • You will know your body better and what works and doesn't for your system.
  • The data you record will help your health team with diagnosis and help to avoid unnecessary lab tests.
  • You will be aware if your pattern of symptoms shifts over time.
  • You will be able to track whether or not a medication or lifestyle change is having an effect on your symptoms.
  • You will be able to identify triggers for your symptoms - whether it is a stressful life event, exposure to an allergen, or engaging (or not) in an activity.
  • It is a portable record that you can bring with you to health care appointments to share data.
  • If you find yourself in the position of needing to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance or Long Term Disability Insurance, you have a record to refer to of symptoms, treatments, diagnoses, doctors, and medications.
Keeping a health journal is not without its challenges.  The number one challenge is compliance.  It can be challenging to record daily.  A few tips may help with this:

  • Remember, you only need to record what you are trying to track.  You do not have to complete every section of a health journal every day, but once you choose the sections you need, it is important to complete them on a consistent basis.
  • Keep it in the kitchen where you eat, or with your medications, so you can remember to record data each time you take your medications or whenever you eat a meal.  Also, other members of your household may help to remind you if it's kept in a public location.
  • Keep it by your bed so you can record in it each morning or night.
  • Be gracious with yourself.  You will forget sometimes, just pick up and keep going from where you left off!
As a chronic illness sufferer myself, I have created a health journal that is comprehensive in design to  enable you to record lots of various details.  Space is provided to record current medications and medical history, describe symptoms, create your support system, prepare for medical appointments, and more.  Many resources are also provided such as a pain scale, illness-specific support websites, and a fairly comprehensive list of symptoms to reference.

The instant digital download allows you to print only the pages you need and is "evergreen."  It's pages are un-dated allowing you to use this purchase year after year.

Journey towards Health Health Journal ad for Etsy
Have you ever used a health journal?  What did you find most beneficial?

1 comment:

  1. After reading your blog I intend to tell my sister that this is exactly what she should do. She has suffered from chronic back pain for three years. I especially appreciate how you define what kinds of information should be included in such a journal. Thank you!

    Jason Hayes @ DECORM