The importance of prioritizing your health during a COVID-19 summer: Dr. Charlene Brown explains why

Dr. Charlene Brown is a board-certified physician, public health expert, and an advocate for testing and treatment options that increase access to healthcare. She is the founder and CEO of Caregiver Jobs Now, and she earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School.

Although we hoped the summer months would slow the spread of COVID-19, we find ourselves striking a balance between enjoying our summer and staying safe from a persistent virus.

The bright side? We're more aware of the importance of good health than ever before. We've not only grown to appreciate our health over the past few months, but also recognize it should remain our number one priority—motivating us to become the healthiest, most vibrant version of ourselves.

To help keep you motivated, we sat down with Dr. Charlene Brown to help you navigate the months ahead. Dr. Charlene Brown is a board-certified physician, public health expert, and an advocate for testing and treatment options that increase access to healthcare. She is the founder and CEO of Caregiver Jobs Now, and she earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School.

In this article, we’ll cover why it’s important to prioritize your health, pay attention to your thyroid, and share ways to safely enjoy yourself during a COVID-19 summer.

Why? Because there’s still summer left to savor—and actions you can take to jump start your health.

Between endless news cycles, work, and summer activities, we may not be prioritizing our health. Why is it so important to take control of our health right now?

It’s important to pay attention to your health right now because regardless of who you are, your life has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are an essential worker on the frontlines—you may be concerned about your vulnerability to COVID-19. You may be concerned about the possibility of exposure and the impact that your risk has on your friends and family. This constant stress can have serious negative impacts on your health.

For those who have been staying at home for any reason such as telework, retirement, or unemployment, it’s easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle. Life is just really hard right now regardless of your personal situation.

There are so many people whose lives are harder financially, professionally, and socially because of the pandemic that it’s important to pause, look at where you are, remember that your life matters, and take care of yourself. Finding time for self-care, despite the stressors, is important.

Luckily, you can still stay in touch with the healthcare system and engage in healthy behaviors. It’s important to eat in a healthy way and exercise as safely as possible.

How about the importance of maintaining routine testing?

It’s important to keep in mind that despite COVID-19 turning our world upside down, our baseline health condition and risk factors remain. If you have a chronic health condition like thyroid disease, hypertension, or diabetes—it doesn’t just get better because everything has stopped.

It’s important to stay in touch with your healthcare providers, and if you’re due for your monitoring work, that shouldn’t be pushed aside as long as you can do it safely. For some diagnostic and monitoring tests, at-home testing may be the easiest way to get your labs done safely.

Speaking of chronic health conditions, tell us about your experience of being diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

I was having symptoms that were classic for hypothyroidism, but they were also classic for so many other possible conditions. I wondered if I had thyroid disease in the back of my mind, but prior thyroid function tests had been normal. Once I noticed a subtle change in my neck size, I became more suspicious that it could be goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid associated with thyroid disease.

Since some thyroid conditions can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, I used the Everlywell Thyroid Test. I liked that I could use an easy test collection method at home to measure my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Once I got my results, I set up an appointment with an endocrinologist who confirmed that I have hypothyroidism. Now, I’m in the care of a physician and on the right medication, and it all started with a sneaking suspension and an Everywell test.

How do thyroid hormones affect our bodies if they are out of balance?

Well, hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone) can manifest with a range of symptoms. People with hypothyroidism can feel anything from fatigue to feeling cold when others are not, to dry skin to unintended weight gain, and so much more. As you can see, each symptom isn’t that specific and could easily be associated with another condition or, in some cases, just lack of sleep. But together, they put thyroid disease on the list of possible diagnoses.

That's why it's really important to pay attention to how you feel and seek care if you are noticing changes. Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to heart disease, digestive problems, and a number of other negative long-term health effects. Less frequently, it can contribute to life-threatening health problems like severe depression or heart failure.

Hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone) can speed up your metabolism leading to unintentional weight loss, a jittery feeling, fast heart rate/palpitations, fatigue, increased appetite, eyes may seem to protrude more than they should, goiter (enlarged thyroid gland), and more.

Not having enough thyroid makes you feel tired, but with hyper, it's the opposite: you can feel anxious, and having acceleration can have some serious consequences. Hyperthyroidism may be due to an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease and is really important to diagnose. Left untreated, it can cause serious problems with the heart, bones, muscles, eyes, and/or “thyrotoxic crisis,” a very serious condition.

It’s clear our health matters, so what can we do to still enjoy the summer while staying safe and healthy during COVID-19?

Personally, summer brings me joy. The sun is shining! We each have to figure out what we enjoy and which ones we can enjoy while social distancing. For example, I really enjoy long walks and movies on the big screen. It’s easy to just wear a mask when I walk and cross the street when I see other people heading my way. I also hear that drive-in movie theatres are making a comeback!

You don’t need a special tool to socially distance: you stand far apart, and it’s like magic. Suddenly your risk has gone down because you changed your behavior. I feel like we have a duty to care for ourselves and care for others by engaging in behaviors that keep us and others safe this summer.

That’s why I love public health. Sometimes, it’s really simple. Stay six feet apart and wear a mask. Simple.

Now that you have a few tips for prioritizing your health and safety this summer—keep the momentum going and explore our full suite of Everlywell tests. Because there’s more summer left to enjoy, and you’ll feel more vibrant when you make your health a priority!

Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and looking for relief? Get COVID-19 treatment online via Everlywell's Virtual Care offering.

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