The high cost of health care spending in the United States is caused, in part, by the lack of primary or preventive care. Seeing your doctor for a yearly physical is important because it helps detect illness or pre-disease states before they become more advanced and difficult to treat.
During your yearly physical your doctor will check your vital signs, including your weight and blood pressure, and order bloodwork to screen for conditions like elevated cholesterol and diabetes, amongst other things. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are all risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, which is the primary cause of illness, hospitalizations and death in the U.S. Your Primary Care Provider (PCP) can help identify and modify these risk factors early and help prevent poor outcomes like heart attack and stroke. To improve your cardiovascular health, your doctor will likely discuss modifying your diet and healthy activity levels. With Chanukah upon us, moderating intake of fried foods is important to keep in mind! Try healthier alternatives like baking instead of frying, using healthy oils like olive or coconut rather than vegetable, or using unsweetened apple sauce to substitute oil altogether.
Aside from checking your vitals and doing bloodwork, your doctor will also discuss cancer screenings appropriate for your age and individual risk factors:
Annual mammograms are recommended for women between ages 40-75, but may be recommended at an earlier age or biennially depending on family risk factors.
Cervical cancer screening starts at age 21,
Routine colorectal cancer screening starts at age 50.
For men, colon and prostate cancer screenings are discussed with your primary doctors at your annual visits.
Smokers are screened for lung cancer, and ultrasound is recommended to screen for abdominal aneurysms.
Skin exams should be performed annually for early detection of skin cancers.
With the implementation of these screening tests, the death rate from cancer in the U.S. has declined 26% since 1991, according to reports from the American Cancer Society. It is not just early detection that led to this decline, but also the counseling provided at these annual exams and routine doctor visits.
Childhood immunizations are key to preventing the spread of diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough, to name just a few. There are also vulnerable adult populations that need to be immunized to keep them protected as well.
Adults over the age of 65 should have 1 dose of each pneumonia vaccine, Prevnar and Pneumovax.
The Shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults after the age of 60, the Shingrix vaccine, which is new on the market as of 2017, is recommended by the manufacturer to be given after the age of 50.
All adults should have an updated tetanus vaccine every 10 years, and anyone that will be exposed to new infants should have an updated TdaP, a tetanus vaccine that also includes immunization against Pertussis (whooping cough).
All individuals, from 6 months of age and older, should get an annual flu vaccine.
So, you see, an annual exam is not something to just brush off and say “I feel perfectly fine and healthy, so what’s the point?” That is precisely the point! We’d like to keep you that way!
What’s in a name?
Some information to help decipher the often confusing titles that get used in primary care:
Primary Care Provider (PCP)- any physician, Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) that provides primary and preventive care to patients, including Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and OBGYN.
Family Medicine- a Family Medicine provider often provides medical care for all ages with no restrictions, from birth to 99+ years, as well as commonly providing OBGYN care as well.
Internal Medicine or Internists- providers who practice adult medicine, usually 18+.
Perel Schneid, DO, is a Primary Care Physician at Crystal Run Healthcare Board Certified in Family Medicine. Dr. Schneid sees patients at the practice’s West Nyack facility.