You feel good, so you believe that all is well. Since you believe that all is well, you think that making an appointment to visit your primary care doctor, dentist, therapist, eye doctor or other specialist is not necessary. It is important to consider that things aren’t always what they seem. There are multiple benefits to routinely seeing your health care providers. The best benefit of routine visits is to gain knowledge about yourself as a way to maintain your health. Changes in how you feel can occur due to age, general health, family history and your lifestyle.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “regular health exams and tests can help find problems before they start. They also can help find problems early, when your chances for treatment and cure are better.” By getting the right health services, screenings, and treatments, you are taking steps that help your chances for living a longer, healthier life.
Visiting a health professional doesn’t need to be in reaction to try fix something that is broken or not working well. With age, our bodies change and that change can include how our bodies react to foods, medications and even the environment. The best way to monitor our changes is to have a professional record of our health over a span of time. The easiest way to do that is see your health care professional on a regular basis so that your vitals, measurements and assessment can create a record used for historical comparisons.
It’s not uncommon for us to experience changes and not pay attention to those changes because some things can change gradually, over time. Not sure if you’ve had any gradual changes? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I noticed any bodily changes, including lumps or skin changes?
- Am I having pain, dizziness, fatigue, problems with urine or stool, or menstrual cycle changes?
- Have my eating habits changed?
- Am I experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, distress, or sleeping problems?
There are different aspects of your visit that will help your health professional to learn the most about you.
What should you expect during a check-up?
Your vitals will be checked, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature. These are important factors to analyze over time. Abnormalities or fluctuations with vitals can be very informative.
Does visiting feel intrusive? Checking your reflexes, listening to your heart using a stethoscope, doing a head and neck exam by asking you to open your mouth while looking at your tonsils, sinuses, lymph nodes, or feeling your thyroid all provide valuable information. These observations can help the health professional to get a more accurate assessment of your overall health.
All of your visit isn’t touchy-feely. Health professionals can gather additional information about you by watching you and talking to you, by looking at your skin, mental quickness and ability to walk and stand.
Another less subjective way to learn about your health are lab tests. Your doctor will likely order a blood sample. Some lab tests are routine, done every 2-4 years. Others can be ordered by the health professional if a condition is suspected or if you have concerns about symptoms that you may be experiencing. Results will be delivered to your health professional for interpretation and recommendations will be given to you, as needed. The goal of a lab test is not to “find something”, but rather to rule-out conditions.
During your visit, honesty is the best policy. If you haven’t been taking your medication as directed, exercising as much, or anything else, say so. Your provider will not be upset, however being dishonest can cause for inaccurate interpretation of the information gathered. If your doctor knows the truth about your behaviors, habits and inability to follow-up, they can use that information and make sense of other things that you’ve discussed or observed.
Your primary care is typically considered your home base for your basic needs and care. Specialists are able to look at a specific area of your health and gather additional information. Like the primary care doctor, information over time helps to diagnose and troubleshoot problems when they arise.
Examples of tests typically conducted by specialists are a Pap test, mammogram, prostate cancer screening, colon cancer screening, sexually transmitted disease screening, eye check, or other screenings. These screenings should be done regularly at the advice of your health professional.
Your health care provider can also help you to process ideas that you may be considering. For example, are you thinking about having infertility treatment, losing weight, taking a hazardous job, or quitting smoking? You can discuss these matters with your provider so that you can make better decisions regarding your health and safety.
Checking-into the idea of getting a check-up is not meant to be a scary or stressful thing. It’s the best way to have reassurance that your body and mind are healthy.
Your physical and mental health are critical components of your longevity and happiness. Being mindful about the importance of getting regular routine professional assessments is the easiest way to put yourself in a position to win.
By: Chaina Porter, MHC Intern
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/family/checkup/index.htm