Staying on top of your health—and healthcare—is a vital part of self-care. If you’ve let check-ups, screenings and other preventive measures slide over the past year due to the pandemic, now’s the time to get back on track! Here are some suggestions to start:
Call your doctor’s office to discuss if you’re due for an annual physical exam or other screenings you may be due for based on your age, personal health history, risk factors, and family history.
Schedule any necessary appointments. Ask about safety measures for in-person check-ups or see if you can have your screening over the phone or video chat. Many doctors and dentists have new policies and consultation methods, as well as sanitation and air filtration measures, now in place.
Keep on top of preventive care. Getting your preventive screening tests is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Screenings can help find diseases early, when they may be easiest to treat and before you have symptoms. Talk to your doctor about whether—and when—you should get these common screening tests based on your age, health history, genetics and other personal risk factors.
- Physical exam – Allows you and your doctor to assess your overall health, keep tabs on conditions you may have, and ensure you’re up-to-date on age-appropriate and risk-based screenings and immunizations.
- Blood pressure – Regular checks are the only way to tell if your blood pressure is out of the target range. High levels increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Blood pressure checks should be done at every visit to your healthcare providers.
- Cholesterol – A blood test measures the cholesterol (type of fat) in your blood. High levels may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Glucose (Diabetes Screening) – A blood test that measures the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in your blood. High levels may increase the risk of diabetes.
- Colonoscopy – A thin, lighted scope helps find polyps in the colon that may become cancerous. If polyps are removed, cancer can be prevented.
- Mammogram – A low-dose X-ray of the breasts. May detect early breast cancer and some conditions that can lead to breast cancer.
- Prostate Screening – There are two types of tests most commonly used to screen for prostate cancer. A prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) measures the level of PSA–created by the prostate–in the blood. The other commonly used test is a digital rectal exam (DRE) during which a doctor or nurse examines the size and shape of the prostate.
- Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap Smear) with/without HPV testing – A test that collects cells from the cervix to look for changes and/or the human papillomavirus (HPV, the most common STD infection) that may lead to cervical cancer.
- Skin Cancer Screening – A doctor will perform a full-body skin exam looking for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture. If your doctor notices something abnormal, they may recommend a biopsy of the area in question.
Don’t forget about other preventive exams like dental and vision—they, too, are important to your overall health.
- Dental Cleaning – Visit your dentist at least twice a year for a thorough cleaning and exam to maintain oral health and resolve any issues before they get out of hand. Many routine problems like cavities and abscesses can be prevented by regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Vision/Eye Exam – Regular eye exams are an important part of maintaining good health. They help to assess and monitor your vision as well as your risk for eye diseases. Even if you don’t have any vision issues or experience any problems, it’s still important to visit an ophthalmologist, optometrist or optician for screenings to ensure there are no underlying issues, such as cataracts, glaucoma or other potential problems.
Miss your flu shot? The CDC recommends a flu vaccination every year (even into January) for everyone over 6 months of age. It’s particularly vital for young children, pregnant women, and those 65 and older or who have asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and who are also more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
Remember other healthy measures! Follow good hygiene, brush and floss daily, stay active, eat nutrient-rich foods, limit alcohol and get proper sleep.
Follow up with your doctor today to discuss what steps are right for you to help you maintain your health based on your personal and family health history, lifestyle habits and other risk factors.