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Preventative Care: An Old Resolution for the New Year

Author: Kendria Holt-Rogers, MD, University Medical Center Primary Care Physician

Santa’s coming soon, so you know what that means: The end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 is near. For many people, the new year will mean making a fresh list of New Year’s resolutions — some may want to spend less money, others will decide to become more organized or maybe spend more time with family.

Whatever the resolution, it’s all about becoming a better you.

The most common New Year’s resolutions often focus on becoming healthier. We plan to lose weight, stop smoking or eat less fast food. Why are these changes important to us? Because we know that when we maintain a healthier lifestyle, we can increase our longevity and overall happiness, and become more productive citizens of this little planet we call home.

As a primary care physician, my goal is to partner with you, the patient, and other healthcare providers involved in your care to keep you as healthy as possible. A primary care physician may be an internal medicine physician, family medicine physician, or pediatrician. Healthcare providers may include specialist physicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians, or physical therapists. We all work together to create a patient-centered home focused on sustaining your well-being.

How do we maintain a healthy you? It begins with preventative care.

The goal of preventative care is to avoid disease and illness through means such as screening exams and vaccinations. The first step is to visit your primary care physician (PCP) once a year for a wellness exam. This should include:

  • A physical exam
  • Medical history
  • Blood work
  • Vaccinations

Your PCP will recommend screening tests based on your age and gender, as well as discuss general healthy measures to incorporate into your daily life.

Most findings on physical exams are usually normal. However, your primary care physician may detect abnormalities during your exams, such as a heart murmur, high blood pressure, or an enlarged thyroid.

This is the purpose of the exam: to find abnormalities early so we can treat them if needed. Sometimes, these findings are innocent, will not cause any harm, and can be monitored by your physician. Other times, you may need further testing, medications or to see a specialist.

If there is an abnormal finding during your exam, be sure to ask your physician to explain why this is abnormal and what needs to be done next. We don’t mind taking the time to explain.

Not all screening services and vaccinations are appropriate for all patients. Be sure to discuss what is right for you with your doctor.

In general, important numbers for everyone to know are your:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Blood Sugar
  • Cholesterol
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)

Screening tests are very important in preventing diseases such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cancer. Screening exams may include a colonoscopy, hepatitis C blood test, or Pap smear. We use the results of these tests, along with family history, and medical history to determine which patients are at risk for developing certain diseases or to find diseases in their earlier stages when they are easier to treat or even cure.

Also, keep in mind that mental health is as important as physical health. In some cases, depression screening may be appropriate.

You will often need vaccinations during your wellness visit. Vaccinations significantly reduce the risk of several viral and bacterial infections. This helps to keep the population as a whole healthy. More importantly, it protects the most vulnerable in our community from illness including children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. So the next time your PCP asks you to get a flu shot, say yes knowing you are helping others!

Lastly, your primary care physician should discuss general health practices. These may include wearing a seat belt, exercising most days of the week, wearing sunscreen, not smoking, wearing a helmet when biking, and yearly physicals. These measures have been shown to increase longevity by preventing, injury, illness, or disease.

Now that your primary care physician has armed you with all of the resources and guidance you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the next steps are up to you.

You are the ultimate key to becoming a better you in 2018.

I and other primary care physicians here at UMCNO are here to help you along your journey. Please visit us in the New Year — we will be glad to see you. Hopefully, we can help you end the year a healthier you than you began it.

Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!

About Dr. Rogers

Dr. Rogers specializes in internal medicine. After earning her degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she completed a residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Rogers is a member of the American College of Physicians and is an FMCSA-Certified Medical Examiner. She looks forward to the opportunity the University Medical Center Primary Care Practice will provide to improve the overall health and well-being of the surrounding community through patient education and preventative care.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Rogers, please call (504) 702-5700.