Medical fears – like being afraid of doctors or needles – can put our health at risk. So, here’s how to overcome our fears:
First let’s talk about a fear of needles. That’s the top reason people avoid vaccinations. Needle fright also makes people avoid necessary blood tests and I.V. medications. The solution: Deep-breath meditation. Clear out distracting thoughts. Concentrate on a word or a spot on the ceiling and breathe deeply. It can help lower anxiety. Try it for 5 or 10 minutes before your appointment, and start again as the “dreaded needle” approaches.
Then: A fear of doctors can throw off our blood pressure reading. Doctors call it “white coat hypertension” – and it happens to 7 out of 10 people. The fix: Tell the doctor you’re nervous. They’ll probably wait until you’ve calmed down to take your blood pressure. Because, after sitting for 16 minutes, your arteries and veins return to normal size, giving you a lower, more accurate reading. But if your blood pressure still seems too high, get a home blood pressure cuff. Take readings several times a day and average them.
Another phobia that can hurt our health: A fear of blood. Avoiding blood tests is tempting fate. Because blood tests are the easiest way to diagnose high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, anemia, and body-wide inflammation. The fix: Look away. And if you’re a fainter, try a technique called “applied tension,” where you tense your muscles before the needle is inserted to boost your blood pressure, which keeps you from fainting.
The final common medical fear: Surgery. In a recent survey, 81-percent of patients were anxious before surgery. And most of them were afraid they’d never wake up from the anesthetic. But know this: You’re more likely to die crossing the street in a big city, than from surgical anesthetic.