Benjamin Franklin said it best; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Although this timeless phrase was made in reference to fire safety, its relevancy holds true for our own health. Many of us have fallen victim to waiting until we get sick to take action, ultimately at a greater cost to our health and wallets. “It is important to get medical advice and treat any underlying health problems before they get worse,” says Yanet Acosta, M.D., board certified Family Medicine Physician at Physicians Regional Medical Group. “The patient’s that only see a doctor when they are sick can be at an increased risk for complications.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are responsible for 7 of every 10 deaths among Americans each year, and account for 75% of the nation’s health spending. They go on to say that “these chronic diseases can be largely preventable through close partnership with your healthcare team, or can be detected through appropriate screenings, when treatment works best.”
Avoiding health complications before they start is critical to living a longer and healthier life. Regular screenings with your physician can be a great tool in prevention. Also known as an annual checkup or routine physical examination, these screenings typically include a review of a patient’s medical history (allergies, medications, surgeries, etc.), vital signs, a physical exam, and some lab tests. Some screening tests may also be ordered. The exams that are given and their frequency can depend on age, gender, health and family history, and lifestyle choices. Dr. Acosta recommends that all adults have a preventive exam once per year and adds that newborns and infants may need more frequent exams. A health checkup can also be useful in managing chronic or ongoing conditions, lifestyle or family planning, managing risk factors, reviewing symptoms, or other reasons based on individual needs.
The advantages of a health checkup can go well beyond early detection or preventing possible health problems. They are a great way of bettering doctor –patient relationships. “An annual health checkup allows me to get to know my patient better. Knowing patients when they are healthy makes it much easier to diagnose a problem if one arises,” says Dr. Acosta. While a lot is covered during a checkup, Dr. Acosta urges patients to take the opportunity to ask questions. This includes asking about dietetic recommendations, risk factors for disease based on family history and lifestyle, symptoms (no matter how subtle), and any necessary vaccinations they may need.
Along with regular health checkups, the CDC recommends the following preventive measures you can take to reduce your likelihood of getting chronic disease and improve your quality of life. These include:
- Eat Healthy
- Get Regular Physical Activity
- Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol
- Get Enough Sleep
- Know Your Family History
- Make Healthy Choices in school, work and the community
It is recommended to speak to a primary care physician for a complete assessment of your individual needs as they pertain to preventive health care and treatment.