This is an unprecedented time. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, much of our normal daily lives has changed. Things feel chaotic and we are all doing our best to stay afloat. Unfortunately, during times of stress, one thing that we often put on the backburner is our health.
As a family medicine physician, I see many patients who have ignored their health for some time and the consequences of this can sometimes be grave. If this is your situation, I encourage you to get back on track with your health and that starts with a preventative health appointment (also known as an annual physical).
During this visit, your family medicine physician can assess your general health with a significant focus on preventative health care. The goal is to identify potential problems early in order to reduce future health consequences either through treatment or lifestyle modification. It’s something that individuals of all ages should get in the habit of doing and can be as simple as measuring a person’s height, weight or blood pressure.
Conditions like hypertension and diabetes often do not have any signs and symptoms early on. However, the long-term effects (such as increased risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease) have already started. This is why it’s very important that a management plan is begun early. Your doctor will discuss with you management through lifestyle changes (dietary changes, exercise, weight reduction, etc.) and possibly the need to start medication. It cannot be stressed enough how important early management is in avoiding long-term complications.
Another important aspect of a preventative health visit is to make sure screening guidelines are met and vaccinations are up to date. Cancer screenings, such as mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer, are extremely effective in identifying early signs of cancer. This means that treatment can start early and result in a much better outcome. Similarly, vaccines such as pneumonia and the annual flu vaccine are also important to prevent serious illness.
Lastly, preventive medicine goes beyond screenings and vaccinations. It is about being proactive with your health. Talk to your doctor about a silly issue that’s been bothering you for a while. Talk about weight loss and quitting smoking. People are the sum of their habits in life and habits can be incredibly hard to change, especially the longer they are in place. So today I encourage you to call and schedule a preventative health visit with your physician.
Dr. Joshua Starr is a family medicine physician with UM Baltimore Washington Medical Group – Primary Care at Pasadena. For an appointment or to reach Dr. Starr, please call 410-553-2900.