Preventive and routine care is care that helps prevent health problems or find them before they become serious. One of the best things you can do for your health is to use these services.
Ask your doctor which routine exams and tests you should have and how often you should get them. Your plan may have a schedule for these visits. If that schedule does not work for your health needs, talk to your doctor about changing it.
Preventive Care Can Include
We now know that being overweight or obese is an important health issue. It can lead to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, and many other serious health problems. Ask your doctor and your health plan about programs for people with weight problems. Some plans offer weight management classes and discounts on health club memberships and diet programs. There are also on-line support programs. Some plans may even pay you money to complete a weight management program. To find out if you are overweight, you can check your Body Mass Index (BMI).
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Government agency with Personal Health Guides to routine care
1-800-358-9295 (publications only)
Lab Tests Online
Information about lab tests
National Immunization Hotline
Government agency with a guide to vaccines for children and adults
Obesity and Overweight
Information on obesity and chart to check Body Mass Index (BMI)
The most important part of preventive health care is maintaining good health habits. This includes:
Avoidance of smoking and drug abuse
Abstinence from or moderation of alcohol use
Proper control of any diseases or disorders (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, orĀ high levels of cholesterol in the blood)
In addition to these habits, there are some other professional services that may prove worthwhile in either preventing or at least minimizing disease.
1. Periodic screening of adults for specific problems is important and recommended:
Pap smear -- cervical cancer screening
Sexually-active female adolescents and women over age 20 (regardless of sexual activity) should have an annual Pap smear. After 3 consecutive, negative, annual Pap smear tests, women who are celibate (not sexually active) or monogamous (have only one partner) and younger than 35 - 40 years of age may decrease Pap smear testing to every 2 - 3 years.
Women over the age of 40, women with multiple sexual partners, and women who take oral contraceptives should have an annual Pap smear.
Women with a medical history of HPV (genital warts) should have a Pap smear every 6 months.
Breast self-examination (BSE) should be taught during adolescence and continued on a monthly basis throughout a woman's life.
Mammography -- radiologic (x-ray) evaluation of the breast tissue
A baseline mammogram is recommended for women at age 40.
Mammograms should be repeated every 2 years for women between 40 and 50 years old, if the baseline test is clear.
An annual mammogram is recommended for women over 50.
A mammogram may be done at earlier age or at more frequent intervals if problems are suspected, or the woman is at increased risk (for instance, if a first-degree relative has had breast cancer).
Testicular self-examination (TSE) should be taught during adolescence and continued on a monthly basis throughout a man's life.
Prostate cancer screening
Prostate health should be evaluated by annual digital rectal examination for men over 40.
PSA (prostate specific antigen) may also be used as a test to screen for prostate cancer, but it is not specific and may indicate benign growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy) as a man gets older. Screening may begin earlier if there is a strong family history.
A baseline total cholesterol measurement, as well as a measurement of bad (LDL) and good cholesterol (HDL), should be obtained for all adults between 18 and 20 years of age. If normal, the test should be repeated every 5 years. Individuals at higher risk, including children with a strong family history of hyperlipidemia, may be screened earlier and at more frequent intervals.
Colon cancer screening
A stool guaiac or other test for occult (hidden) blood in the stool should be done every year after age 50 (or sooner if there is a family history of colon cancer).
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is recommended every 3 years after age 50 (earlier or at more frequent intervals for individuals at higher risk); colonoscopy, which is probably a better screening test than flexible sigmoidoscopy need only be repeated every 5 - 10 years if normal.
Blood pressure should be checked annually.
Weight should be checked annually unless there are notable weight losses or gains.
Dental examinations and cleaning should be routine, every 6 months or so.
2. Many diseases can be effectively treated when detected early.
See your primary health care provider right away if:
A lump or persistent lesion appears on your body
You have unexplained weight loss
You have a prolonged fever
A chronic cough develops (or if you begin to cough up blood)
You notice continued body aches and pains
Have a plan for obtaining professional care before the need arises.
3. Keep immunizations up-to-date. Remember that adults should receive periodic boosters for diseases such as tetanus. If you are either older than 65 or have significant heart or lung problems, you should consider receiving an influenza vaccine during the fall and winter season, as well as a pneumonia vaccine.
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