By Dr. Kwame Fiakpornoo
Most people take their vehicles for scheduled tune-ups, oil changes and preventative maintenance. We check our air and heating systems. We clean the roof gutters so our homes run more efficiently. And we spare no expense to look younger and more beautiful.
However, we are less concerned about the things we need to do at different stages of our lives to make sure our bodies run at their optimum levels. Many simple steps have been scientifically proven to reduce the incidence of disease and hence a healthy future! This is called HEALTH MAINTENANCE, and few of us consider it as part of our daily routine.
Many health plans included in the ACA afford us the ability to get at least one fully covered wellness check a year. This is a perfect time for your primary care doctor to review components of health maintenance with you. Now that health maintenance is part of the public dialogue, remember that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE ILL BEFORE YOU SEE YOUR DOCTOR.
Studies have shown that certain common diseases tend to be undetectable in their early stages. Subsequently the likelihood of their prevention, early detection and treatment is dependent on examination and tests that your primary care doctor can order which would identify the problems at an early, treatable stage. Because of this, various recommendations exist for different age groups and sexes with a lot of overlap for the different population categories.
Some guidelines keep changing, and frankly, some are still being debated, and creating some confusion. That’s when your Primary Care Doctor makes recommendations based on an individual’s specific risk set (lifestyle, family history, diet, etc.), so you don’t have to worry about it.
Get an Annual Physical/ Wellness Check. Get your Flu Shot when the Season is here. Be sure all recommended vaccinations for your age are completed, including Pneumonia and Shingles vaccines. Hypertension, Cholesterol, Depression and Diabetes screenings are helpful and these can be completed at your annual Wellness Check. Risk-dependent screening like for STDs, Hepatitis, Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Tobacco use are all part of a health maintenance checkup, too.
Women’s Health We recommend Annual Women's Wellness Exams, which would include a breast and pelvic exam with a Pap smear for cervical cancer as determined by your doctor. The guidelines for Mammograms recently changed but the true guidelines should be determined with the help of your Primary Care Physician, based on clinical judgment. Also, a Bone Density screening for Osteoporosis should be included for post-menopausal women.
Men’s Health A prostate cancer screening is important. Race and family history are vital in risk determination and the recommendations vary, but most screenings will begin by age 40. There is a role for Bone Density screening in men, too, based on some risk factors.
Colon Cancer Screening (a colonoscopy) is recommended beginning at age 50. This screening should be done earlier for people with a family history of the disease.
Dr. Kwame Says
Do not put off Health Maintenance. Some conditions do not show signs early and the only way to avoid them is to be screened. Work with your Primary Care Physician to determine your risks.
Dr. Kwame Fiakpornoo is a Board Certified Internist/ Primary Care Doctor and Medical Director of CobbWest Internal Medicine Associates located in Dallas GA. Visit http://www.cobbwestim.com or call 678-324-7021 for more information.