With chronic diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes prompting most doctor visits in the U.S., physicians should keep asking patients about their food and fitness habits, says David Kortje, MD, who is part of the South Wichita Family MedCenter practice.
Chronic pain and many chronic diseases can be prevented or addressed with those two lifestyle behaviors. Even the U.S. president was advised to make changes in those areas during his recent checkup.
“From my perspective, fitness and diet — or the lack thereof — are what bring many patients into my office,” Dr. Kortje says. “My patients know I’ll ask them what kind of exercise they do and how often, and that I’ll encourage them to do something. It’s a two-second question, and it should be a regular and consistent part of a doctor’s visit.”
One of his patients — a woman dealing with diabetes — fielded the questions for about two years, sheepishly admitting every time she saw Dr. Kortje that she wasn’t exercising. Like he usually does with his patients, he didn’t lecture her but just pointed out that doing something every day would help her feel better.
“And then suddenly, after two years, it clicked,” Dr. Kortje recalls. “She started exercising, and her blood sugar came down beautifully.”
For patients who express an interest in creating a fitness program, doctors should provide them with tools and resources to be successful, such as any necessary tests to help them determine the right activity, and advice for developing a realistic program that won’t lead to burnout or injury, he says.
“Unfortunately, people who haven’t been active will often decide to exercise three times a week or more, and then they’ll burn out pretty fast,” Dr. Kortje says.
Another key piece of advice he provides patients is to schedule exercise: “If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen,” he says. “It’s like saying to someone, ‘I’ll call you sometime,’ compared to ‘I’ll call you at 4 p.m. today.’ ”
Dr. Kortje has been a longtime fitness enthusiast. Past family vacations often included skiing, biking, hiking and climbing. A few years ago, Dr. Kortje’s son, Caleb, introduced him to competitive rock climbing. Following Caleb’s death, in 2012, Dr. Kortje and his family opened Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex, an indoor rock-climbing and training facility in Wichita, using Caleb’s college fund as seed money. The gym’s name pays homage to one of Caleb’s favorite sayings, “Follow your bliss.”
Dr. Kortje opened his medical practice in Wichita in 1992, after completing his family medicine residency at what is now Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph. A native of Norfolk, Nebraska, Dr. Kortje earned both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Nebraska.
Dr. Kortje, a family practice physician, sees patients at South Wichita Family MedCenter, one of six locations within the Family MedCenters practice in the greater Wichita area.