A lot of people make the mistake of only focusing on their health when they are feeling sick. While it is certainly important to visit a medical professional when you are not feeling well, it can be equally important to visit your doctor even when you are feeling healthy. There are many serious health conditions you can avoid by focusing on preventive health care. Preventive health care can take many different forms.
One of the most common forms of preventive health care is getting a yearly checkup. During this time, your doctor can perform a variety of tests to gauge your overall health.
Many patients end up discovering potential health care issues during their yearly checkup. You can avoid a lot of conditions simply by being alert and making changes to your lifestyle to improve your health. Whenever possible, it is always better to use preventive health care to avoid getting sick, rather than waiting until an illness or condition manifests. Even with top-of-the-line health care, many medical conditions can cause lasting damage if you do not take care of yourself, not to mention those types of conditions are much more expensive to treat.
What specifically does preventive health care focus on?
Preventive health care measures focus on a few different areas. Some of the main purposes of preventive health care include the following:
- Screening yourself for potential medical issues
- Assessing your chances of developing future medical problems
- Reviewing your overall lifestyle and learning what changes you can make to improve your health
- Staying up to date with vaccinations and other treatments
- Developing a better relationship with your medical provider, so you feel safe relying on him or her in case there is ever a serious medical emergency
In addition to these general purposes, there are specific preventive health care procedures for specific populations. These include adult men, adult women and children. In many instances, the overall procedure is the same, but your physician may focus on different areas. In addition, there are different types of preventive care available depending on your age, gender and overall lifestyle. Whether or not you have any pre-existing medical conditions may also change how often you have to see your physician.
Preventive Health Care for Women
Some of the preventive health care screenings for women are the same for men. For example, women benefit from checking their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as getting screened for diabetes. Women who are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant have even more preventive health care screenings to consider. For these women, it is very important they get all the necessary screenings before having a child. Otherwise, they may be putting both themselves and their child at risk. In addition to medical screenings, it is important to undergo nutritional screenings. Women should continue to get screened regularly after they are pregnant.
Women have other preventive health care measures outside of pregnancy. After turning 40 years of age, all women are encouraged to get a mammography screening for breast cancer every one to two years. When a woman turns 21 years of age, it is recommended to get a Pap test every three years to test for cervical cancer.
Preventive Health Care for Men
One of the most basic but very important health care procedures for adult men is getting their blood pressure checked every three to five years. If you have a history of blood pressure issues, then you should schedule a blood pressure screening every year instead. Most doctors recommend the systolic number, which is located on the top of a blood pressure test, stay between 120 and 139. Additionally, if the bottom number, the diastolic number, is between 80 and 89, then you should also be screened once a year.
In addition to checking your blood pressure, you should get a cholesterol screening every five years. A similar screening to consider is a diabetes screening, which usually goes hand in hand with a blood pressure test. Other common forms of preventive health care involve visiting the dentist and getting an eye exam. As men get older, it is important to get a testicular exam, as well as a screening for colon cancer.
Preventive Health Care for Children
Preventive health care for children is very important, especially in their earliest years. A lot of the procedures children undergo are very different compared to adults. With children, there are only a few differences between male and female patients. The earliest preventive health care procedures begin practically from the moment the child is born. These first procedures include a behavioral assessment, which plays an important role in detecting any potential mental health issues. A similar screening most children undergo when they are between 18 and 24 months is an autism screening.
Many of the earliest screenings focus on development. Children routinely get their hearing and vision checked to detect any potential issues as soon as possible. Another reason preventive health care is so important for children is it instills healthy lifestyle habits. For example, in recent years, many medical professionals have placed a greater emphasis on eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise to prevent health issues caused by obesity. The earlier children start to take care of their bodies, the less likely they will develop health issues as adults. Other issues, such as proper dental care, may prevent future cavities or other oral health issues.
Another screening young children get is a bilirubin screening. This screening can detect liver damage, liver disease, anemia or other liver-related issues in children. These conditions are very serious and become significantly harder to treat if they are not caught early on. While they are still serious, it is much easier to treat these conditions before they progress and present much harsher symptoms.
Which preventive health care benefits are available?
For many, the biggest challenge in getting the necessary health care has to do with insurance coverage. As of writing, all marketplace health plans in the United States must provide coverage for many basic preventive health care screenings. This includes some of the following tests:
- Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
- Blood pressure screening
- Cholesterol screening
- Colorectal cancer screening, available for adults between 50 and 75 years of age
- Depressing screening
- Diet counseling
- HIV screening
- Obesity screening
- General access to immunization and vaccinations