From identifying pre-cancerous polyps to controlling high blood pressure before it advances to chronic hypertension, preventive care is one of the most effective ways to lower healthcare costs and improve health outcomes. 

While annual physicals are the mainstay of preventive care, there are other elements, such as cancer screenings and immunizations, that shouldn’t be overlooked. Read on to learn more about the benefits of preventive care and what it entails. 

What is preventive care? 

It’s much more effective (and cheaper) to prevent disease in the first place rather than trying to treat it after the fact. As opposed to diagnostic care which treats symptoms once they are evident, preventive care is intended to stop disease before it starts (or gets worse).  

Preventive care helps avoid the “chasing” of disease, according to Revere Health Internal Medicine doctor Troy Lunceford, MD. 

“When someone has uncontrolled diabetes, for example, you’re chasing that disease,” Lunceford said. “But if we can get ahead of the curve by preventing diabetes in the first place or keeping it under control, we can prevent complications down the road.”

What are the components of preventive care? 

Healthcare.gov offers a comprehensive list of preventive services including blood pressure screenings, diet counseling, diabetes screenings, and even aspirin use for some adults with high cardiovascular risk factors.  

While individual preventive services may vary depending on health insurance and other factors, here are some of the most common aspects of preventive care to be aware of for your overall well-being:  

Cancer Screenings 

Many deadly cancers can be treated successfully or prevented entirely with routine intervention in the earliest stages before the cancer progresses. Preventive screenings are generally recommended for the following cancer types: 

  • Breast Cancer: Women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer should get a mammogram every two years, according to the CDC
  • Cervical Cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, people who are 25 to 65 years old should have a primary HPV test every 5 years. 
  • Colorectal (Colon) Cancer: People at average risk of colorectal cancer should start regular screening at age 45, according to the CDC. While several testing options are available, the colonoscopy remains the “gold standard” due to its superior ability to detect early warning signs.  
  • Lung Cancer: People who are 50 to 80 years old and currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years (with at least a 20 pack-year smoking history) should receive an LDCT scan annually, according to the United States Preventive Services Task Force
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Flu Shot and Immunizations

Even if you received all your vaccines as a child, you still need vaccines as an adult. The protection from some vaccines can wear off over time, and as you get older you may be at risk for other diseases, like shingles. Below are some of the most common vaccinations adults should stay up to date on: 

  • Flu Vaccine  
  • COVID-19 vaccine 
  • Shingles vaccine
  • Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis). Everyone needs to get the Tdap vaccine once, and pregnant women need a dose during every pregnancy. After you get a Tdap vaccine, get a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years to keep you protected from tetanus and diphtheria. 
  • HPV vaccine to protect against HPV (human papillomavirus). HPV is a very common infection that can cause cancer. The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for preteens ages 11-12 to protect them from HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life. If you’re ages 27 to 45 and you haven’t gotten the HPV vaccine, talk to your doctor. 

Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about other vaccines you may need to stay healthy. You may need additional vaccines if you have certain long-term health conditions or didn’t get all your vaccines when you were a child. 

Annual Physicals

Annual physical exams can uncover “silent” health conditions, such as high blood pressure, that can damage your health without causing any symptoms. They also help you receive more personalized care from your team of doctors.  

During your physical, the doctor will: 

  • Check your vital signs. 
  • Perform the physical exam to check for issues.
  • Update your vaccines.
  • Check for needed screenings (such as a colonoscopy).
  • Update your health records. 
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Diabetes Management 

Diabetes is generally preventable by making certain lifestyle changes to your diet, exercise routine, etc. If you already have diabetes, however, it’s important to follow a care plan with your doctor to stop the disease from getting worse. 

According to the CDC, if you’re meeting your diabetes treatment goals, you should visit your doctor every 6 months. Your blood pressure and weight will be checked, and your self-care plan and medicines will be reviewed. Ask your doctor to check your feet if you’ve ever had diabetes-related foot problems. If you are not meeting your goals, you should see your doctor every 3 months (or more often if needed). 

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To prevent your diabetes from worsening, be sure to take the medications prescribed by your doctor (even when you feel well), self-monitor and record your blood sugar levels, and check your feet and skin for any lesions, discoloration, or changes. 

Lowering A1c levels to approximately 8% or less has been shown to reduce microvascular complications of diabetes. A reasonable goal for most non-pregnant adults is <8%.

Practice Preventive Care

Revere Health offers a number of Family Medicine offices to help you practice preventive care and stay healthy all year round. Click here to find a Family Medicine doctor near you.  

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