My parents raised me and my sister to be proactive in taking care of ourselves. From a young age, we made regular visits to the dentist, eye doctor, and to get an annual physical. Because I grew up this way, I never had a fear of doctors’ or dentists’ offices. Even when I was sick or injured, I never felt afraid because I was familiar with all of my doctors. They were all friendly and made each visit positive for me.
Now, as an adult, I appreciate that my parents taught me that visiting the doctor and dentist are part of being healthy. I believe, quite strongly, that well-checks are the best thing I can do to maintain my health. I have adopted the mindset that if a health issue arises, it is best to catch it early. If I wait until I am feeling sick to be seen, treatment and recovery may be more difficult and lengthy.
If well-checks are not something you currently practice, I encourage you to shift your mindset. January is the perfect month to set up your annual well-checks. That doesn’t mean you should try to schedule every single well-check in the month of January. It does mean that January is a perfect time to look at your calendar, make the calls, and get things scheduled. Most providers are able to schedule appointments as far as six months out.
Here are the most important well-checks and the frequency they are needed:
- Cleaning every six months
- X-Rays once a year
- Vision Check– Your annual exam includes reading vision, distance vision, peripheral vision, and a glaucoma test.
- Fundus Photography– The is optional and is usually not covered by insurance. The test detects glaucoma, eye complications that may occur in diabetics, swelling, abnormal dilation, complications due to high blood pressure, deterioration of eye due to age, cancer and eye infections. Since my eyes are healthy and I don’t have high blood pressure or diabetes, I opt in and pay for this test every other year.
Primary Care and Diagnostics
- Physical– Your annual exam includes bloodwork to check cholesterol, hormone levels, thyroid functions, blood sugar, iron, and Vitamin D levels. Women will get a pap smear and men will get a prostate check. You will want to fast for 10-12 hours prior to your physical for the bloodwork. Ask your doctor’s office when you book your appointment for special instructions.
- 3-D Mammogram – This is an annual exam for all women age 40 and above.
- Breast Ultrasound– This is an annual exam for all women over 40 with dense breast tissue. When you get the results from your mammogram, there will be a recommendation for an ultrasound if you are a candidate.
- Colonoscopy– Schedule your first exam at the age of 50. Depending on your health history, your family history and the results of your first exam, follow up tests are usually every three to five years. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about getting your first colonoscopy before the age of 50.
- If you see a specialist for any health conditions, it is a good idea to schedule a visit every six months. This is a good time to talk through any symptoms and improvements you have noticed in your health. It is also a good time to adjust medications if needed and to make sure your treatment plan is working for you.
Get to Know Your Providers
If you tend to be the person who only goes to the doctor when you injure yourself or are feeling extremely sick, I encourage you to try something new this year. Make it your priority to schedule well-checks. Get to know your doctors and providers. The better you know your providers, the more you will trust them. The better your providers know you, the better they can help you.