Prevention Quality Life Forum Advocacy and Empowerment Series
Preventives For Health Maintenance
When you are well, you may not want to see a Doctor or Dentist, as many people have all the sound reasons for it. I know what a pain it is and you have a busy life. But think again – what could be more important than your health? You probably keep up your car on schedule for checkup, oil change, tire rotation, and all maintenance work up to date for keep it running. Won’t you want to maintain your health before break down? Prevention is the key for health maintenance.
For too long, health care system has been focusing on treatment for illness. This has been changing, with more focus on disease prevention and foster good health. Preventive health care focus on keeping people healthy, engages and empowers individuals in healthy behaviors, and makes changes that reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and other morbidities.
It is recommended that adults and children aim to keep regular check-ups (medical, vision, and dental), even if they feel healthy, to perform disease screening, identify risk factors for disease, discuss tips for a healthy and balanced lifestyle, stay up to date with immunizations and boosters, to maintain a good health. Now, most health insurance carriers also cover 100% for health, vision, and dental preventive care. If you do not have health insurance, check with your local health department for free or affordable preventive services.
Primal prevention :Any measure aimed at helping future parents provide their upcoming child with adequate attention, as well as secure physical and affective environments from conception to first birthday (i.e., over the child's primal period of life.
Primary prevention: Methods to avoid occurrence of disease either through eliminating disease agents or increasing resistance to disease. Examples include immunization against disease, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, and avoiding smoking.
Secondary prevention: Methods to detect and address an existing disease prior to the appearance of symptoms. Examples include treatment of hypertension (a risk factor for many cardiovascular diseases), cancer screenings
Tertiary prevention: Methods to reduce the harm of symptomatic disease, such as disability or death, through rehabilitation and treatment. Examples include surgical procedures that halt the spread or progression of disease
Well-child visits and immunizations From new born to age 17, the well-child visits and immunizations should be well maintained to meet children’s rapid growth and developmental needs. The day cares, schools and college admissions also require health record documentations.
Preventive screening guideline for healthy adults from BlueCross BlueShield, one of the nation’s largest health insurance carriers, is a good reference to consider.
Engaging in prevention for health maintenance
Health maintenance is more than an annual physical exam and dental checkup. However, annual physical exam and dental checkup are important elements in health maintenance.
1. The necessity of an annual physical exam The controversy over whether or not annual physicals are needed continues in medical community, as there are studies showing that the actual exam is not very helpful in discovering problems and may lead to unnecessary tests. If you are health literate and confident, you may schedule your doctor visits according to your actual health needs – rather than an arbitrary date set for an annual check-up. For others, however, book an annual checkup will better keep you on track. The laboratory testing may detect conditions require early intervention without any symptoms. Screenings may be prescribed at the well-visit only. As most major insurances pays for it, why not utilize this benefit. It is a small investment once a year, even you don’t have insurance; your health is worth of it. As a health care professional, I have seen early detections for serious medical conditions from annual physicals in quite a number of people, which were life-savings. I have also seen enough late discoveries at advanced disease stage with lives had cut short.
2. Expectations and Preparations The annual physical examinations consist of the basics, male or female exam, laboratory testing, and preventives. I often see people get disappointed, because the doctor was not listening or don’t do anything about their complaints, or felt the exam was superficial which won’t discover much.
Consider these factors for your expectations - A typical visit with a family doctor is usually allotted about 15 minutes. It’s understandable that time is business. In order to properly assess a health concern when necessary, physicians need more than a couple of minutes to take a detailed history and perform a physical exam, which may require additional appointment. In fact, a 15-minutes well-visit can be meaningful, with proper preparations, in most cases. Be prepared before the visit:
Self-monitoring– you can monitor your own blood pressure and heart rate with an automated blood pressure monitor. Body temperature, body weight and BMI can be easily self-monitored as well. The best time for vital signs is after morning wake up and before start up the daily activities. Be health conscious for any changes or unusual sensations, including pain/itching/discomfort, awareness of lymph nodes, skin lesions or discolorations. If you are a woman, perform your own breast exams regularly. If you are a man, check your testicles for lumps, tenderness, or changes in size routinely.
Keep a personal health record - start a journal and mark the notable changes (with possible physical or psychological impacts noted). For example, when your blood pressure was high, compared with the previous year’s physical baseline numbers, check for physical activities or stress factors at the time. Also record your diet intakes, body weight/body compositions, and track your exercises/work out.
Improve health literacy – continue to learn from community and on-line health resources, educational health coaching sessions, medical research findings.
Write down and ask the right questions – be as clear and as specific as possible. Describe changes from the previous year or your usual state and share your concerns.
At the visit, ensure understanding of the medical advice and receive all prescriptions/diagnostics (i.e., lab slips, prescriptions for preventives - bone density, colonoscopy, mammogram, etc) deemed necessary.
After the visit, schedule and complete the testing and follow-up the results. Communicate with your Doctor for any further questions, call or by e-portal, which has become increasingly accessible for patients by more medical practices. Keep a record of your testing and treatment results.
3. Take charge for your health You know yourself the best and should not dependent on your doctor to find out everything at a 15-minutes physical exam once a year. A 15-minute well-visit can be valuable, when it’s done right, for health maintenance. Remember to schedule your eye exam and dental checkup as well. To take the initiative for prevention is your first step toward better health, as you are accountable for your wellness.
Of course, health maintenance requires commitment year around. Your engagement in prevention and improvement in health literacy shall enhance healthy life style.
As defined by the World Health Organization, health promotion is: “The process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behavior towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions.”
Lastly, if you have shared your problem and the doctor concludes it’s not concern, then at least your mind will be at ease. Celebrate your health when everything checked out fine; don’t feel it was a waste of time and money. You did the right thing and you are doing well. Congratulations!