If you’re feeling good, seeing a doctor for a regular wellness exam might not be a top priority. But avoiding the doctor’s office – particularly if you have a chronic condition or are at risk for one – could end up hurting you more in the long run. It’s a common saying in health care that it’s better to prevent a disease than to treat people once they get sick. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 78.9% of adults in the U.S. had a wellness visit in 2019. But a fraction of adults receives all the care they need: only 8% of adults age 35 and older in 2015 received all the recommended and high-priority clinical preventive services. It’s especially important for individuals with a chronic condition like heart disease, cancer, chronic lung diseases like asthma and COPD, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease to keep up with their visits to the doctor as prescribed. About 60% of adult Americans have at least one chronic condition. Left unchecked, chronic conditions can lead to additional health problems and become costlier for an individual and their family, and for the health care system. Here are five ways regular checkups with your primary care provider can help you:
Your primary care provider can address any concerns you may have about your prescription medication and may recommend a change or adjustment. Working with your insurance company, providers may have safe, more cost-effective alternatives to offer to you to help manage your conditions.
Following CDC recommendations and completing a COVID vaccine series is essential. COVID vaccine booster shots are available for immunocompromised patients. Discussing immunizations with your doctor and keeping up to date on routine immunizations can keep your immune system prepared to handle illnesses like influenza, whooping cough and pneumonia, and can help you avoid missing work due to a seasonal illness.
Taking time to talk to your provider about your lifestyle – how you’re eating, sleeping and exercising – may help you identify areas to make adjustments in order to help prevent a chronic condition or to improve your general health and wellbeing. It’s also a good time to bring up any mental health concerns you might have, like signs of depression or anxiety, to see what kind of treatment plan they might recommend to help.
Screenings for cancer
Staying on top of regular screenings for cancer is important. Providers will make sure you’re sticking to the recommended schedule based on your age and gender. These include Pap smears and mammograms for women, colon cancer screenings for everyone and prostate screenings for men.
Vitals check for signs of chronic conditions or disease
During a wellness visit, health care providers will check your weight, blood pressure and heart – and may recommend additional tests or screenings based on any risk factors they might identify. Something that may seem insignificant to you may be a sign of something more serious to a health care professional. The earlier a chronic condition can be caught, the more time you have to change your lifestyle, adopt any recommended interventions and make a difference for your health in the long term. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
- Signs of Colon Cancer
- Understanding Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Coffee and Anxiety: What You Need to Know
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