If you’re waiting until you’re sick to see your doctor, you’re
waiting too long.
Preventive medicine is important, and annual checkups with your primary
care physician (PCP) can help you stay healthier longer. Many of the most
common diseases today, including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension,
can be identified during regular checkups. Your physician will evaluate
you for these problems at each visit, watching for subtle changes to your
health such as increasing weight and blood pressure.
Age appropriate screening is also discussed at preventive visits. This
may include blood work, which can identify diagnoses that commonly do
not cause any symptoms early on, like pre-diabetes, high cholesterol and
kidney disease. Your doctor can discuss risk factors that you may have
for heart disease, stroke, and other diseases.
Screenings like mammogram and colonoscopy can help detect cancers at their
earliest stages, when they are easiest to treat and beat. Patients should
be asked about things like smoking and depression at annual visits, and
in older populations primary care doctors are on the look-out for other
issues such as cognitive changes and falls.
Vaccinations, commonly thought of as only important for children, are also
addressed during preventive visits. There are several vaccines recommended
during adulthood and especially after age 65 that help prevent common
Many diseases can be managed early on with lifestyle changes that can stop
or slow disease progression significantly. But you know that already.
You also know that it’s important to stop (or never start) smoking,
that it is critical to exercise and maintain a healthy weight, and that
junk food is called “junk” for a reason.
If you know all that, why don’t you act on it? Because it is really
hard to change habits that have been in place for years. It’s difficult
to commit to long-term changes when there is no instant gratification.
And it is almost impossible to sort through all of the information available
regarding a “healthy lifestyle.” Let your doctor help.
Your PCP is a key component of preventive care. From lifestyle modification
programs that actually work (such as smoking cessation programs) to detailed
discussions about diets and realistic exercise regimes, your PCP can give
you helpful tips and help you pay attention to warning signs that are
specific to you.
When it comes to your health, it is better to be proactive than reactive.
It’s not easy to lose weight, quit smoking or start exercising.
But a yearly appointment with your physician can help. You and your PCP
can work as a team to prevent trouble from starting and optimize your
health. Once you’ve found a doctor you trust, go see him or her.