ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. – You might have heard that keeping a journal is good for mental health, but a St. Clair Shores cardiologist is saying that’s only one of the many benefits.
Making a health change can be hard. Making multiple changes is even more difficult. Dr. Joan Crawford, from Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital, is devoting herself to helping patients create a plan to improve their health and actually stick to it.
Anita Paschal, of Roseville, is a survivor of three strokes, starting in March 2016. In May 2018, she sent into pulmonary and cardiac arrest. Paschal woke up in intensive care.
“It was, ‘You want to live or you want to die,’" Paschal said. “That was the choice: live or die, and I chose to live. The doctor said, ‘You were born again. You are lucky.’ I say, ‘I’m blessed.’ That’s what I say.”
Paschal had already quit smoking and started losing weight, but now she’s working with Crawford to make other critical changes.
“I like to tell patients that they should own their disease and don’t let their disease own them,” Crawford said.
She routinely sees patients facing life or death challenges.
“If someone just had a heart attack and they have to quit smoking, watch their sugar, change their diet, lose weight, it becomes extremely overwhelming, and the next time you see them, maybe they did one thing, maybe they didn’t, or maybe they are the same weight or five pounds heavier,” Crawford said.
She said a simple notebook can help patients focus.
“I think having your goals written down -- you make a commitment an you organize your thoughts,” Crawford said. “Go to the drug store and buy just a little pad. Basically, just write down 10 or 20 health goals and then just really think about it and say, ‘What is it I can really start doing this month? What is it that I am going to wait and try to kick in six months?'”
The steps to accomplish the goal also go in the notebook, along with their daily progress and anything else patients need to track or want to remember.
“I think people are very goal-oriented,” Crawford said. “It makes people more successful when they can check the box like, ‘Did this, did this, did this.’ When we meet again, I’m like, ‘Get out your book and let’s pick the next goal.'"
“I write everything in this journal,” Paschal said. “Emotions, how I am feeling.”
Paschal said she believes in the power of journals.
“You have to put it on paper, because if you don’t write it down, it kind of just goes away,” Paschal said.
She encouraged everyone to get a notebook and a doctor who can help get them back on track.
“This is a plan,” Paschal said. “The difference was she gave me a plan. This is how we can work this out. These are the goals. This is what we are reaching for.”
“Many patients have goals in life, so I try to help patients realize they have health goals in life,” Crawford said.
Crawford also strongly believes in high-tech help. She recommends her patients use apps to track their home blood pressure readings, diet, exercise, water intake and the sodium content of foods. She also likes GoodRx to help them save money on prescriptions.
Many people are trying to look and feel better for the new year, but there is a shift away from the strict diet plans that were so popular last year. Sunday night on Local 4 News -- after the Golden Globes -- Dr. Frank McGeorge will reveal the new trend that could finally help people lose weight and still enjoy what they eat. It helped Dr. McGeorge, and it could help a lot of others.