The Benefits of Preventive Care
Many people avoid the doctor unless they are feeling sick. This may be due to time constraints, cost, or not feeling like they are getting value from their visit with their doctor.
However- preventive care is one of the most important things we can do for our health. Preventive care is about preventing diseases before they start, or catching them early enough that they can be treated or cured. While this is not possible for every illness, the vast majority of diseases that impact our quality of life or cause premature death can be prevented or cured with simple preventive care. We can do a lot to prevent disease with our lifestyle- making sure we are following good hygiene practices, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and avoiding substance abuse. However, there are some forms of preventive care that require assistance from a medical professional. Here are a few examples of preventive care that our doctors can provide to benefit us:
Vaccinations: Vaccinations are one of the most effective forms of preventive care. Because of vaccines, we have virtually eliminated many diseases that used to cause significant disability or premature death (especially in children) such as polio, smallpox, pertussis, measles, and certain types of pneumonia and meningitis. The HPV vaccine is still relatively new and has not yet eliminated this virus, but it is leading to a drastic decrease in certain types of cancer. Flu and COVID vaccines do not eliminate infections, but they can reduce the risk of infection and drastically reduce the risk of severe disease requiring hospitalization or ICU care. As more people decline vaccines or move to an alternative schedule, we see increased outbreaks of infections that can cause significant harm or death. Following the recommended vaccine schedule is a safe and effective way to keep yourself, your children, and your community healthy. In addition to the basic vaccine schedule that is recommended to everyone, there are additional vaccines that are recommended for individuals with certain health conditions who are immune suppressed and are more vulnerable to certain types of infections. Most people are familiar with the childhood vaccine schedule, but there is a recommended schedule for adults as well. You can find more information about recommended vaccines on the CDC website. Your doctor will likely review any vaccines you may be due for at your next wellness visit.
Screening for chronic disease: Although it is not always obvious when you see your doctor for an annual wellness exam, "check-up," or "physical," they are actually screening you for many types of illnesses and chronic diseases! Typically they will check your vital signs, perform a physical exam, and order bloodwork depending on your age and health status. Your vital signs help screen for arrhythmias, blood pressure problems, and abnormal weight loss or weight gain that could indicate disease. A full physical exam can help your doctor catch signs of other kinds of disease such as thyroid problems, sleep apnea, arrhythmias, heart murmurs, diabetes, lung disease, liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, and some types of cancer. Your blood work can also indicate early signs of disease that may not be visible on your physical exam, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, liver and kidney disease, anemia, and vitamin deficiencies. They will also review any genetic or lifestyle considerations that may impact your health and offer additional testing if needed based on this information. This is a vital visit- don't miss it!
Screening for cancer: Cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies are what most people think about when they hear "preventive care." While screening is not available for all types of cancer, these screenings are vital for the early detection of cancers while they are small and have not spread so that they can be more easily treated and even cured. Skin cancer screening is recommended with an annual skin exam for individuals at increased risk based on their skin type and sun exposure. Screening is also available for lung cancer for individuals at increased risk due to smoking, and for liver cancers for individuals with certain health conditions that increase their risk. It is important to talk to your doctor about if and when you should be screened for different types of cancer- the age when your screening should start and the type of screening you need may be different depending on your personal risk factors.
If you are ready to be more proactive about your health and make sure you are up to date on preventive care recommendations, schedule your wellness appointment today! At Vida Family Medicine we are currently accepting new patients. Your first appointment with us will include a thorough review of your health history and a personalized plan for tackling your preventive care needs. Our membership program will provide you with ongoing access and support from your personal physician to keep you well year after year. Visit our website to learn more and become a member!