Making Appointments in the New Year: What to Discuss and Why

When you consider
what makes a good New Year’s resolution for improving your health, what often
comes to mind is a better diet and more exercise. In the rush to keep up with
the newest nutrition fads and flashiest workout trends, we may fall behind in
staying up to date on regular check-ups and routine screenings.

It’s important to
not only visit your primary physician for aches and pains, but to prevent
future illnesses, as well. Knowing what to discuss at annual appointments and
how often patients should be scheduling routine screenings is important to keep
in mind for the future of your health and overall wellbeing.

Family Health History

It turns out that our genetic connections can have a large impact on our health and vulnerability to certain diseases and cancers. Heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer are all examples of illnesses that can be passed down but have a better prognosis when caught in an early stage. Before making annual appointments, try to compile as much information as possible and discuss three prior generations of health history with your family members. Knowing details like at what age relatives were diagnosed for different illnesses and what their lifestyles were like can help assess your future risk.

Sharing this
information with your doctor can help you to be proactive in scheduling
additional appointments and tests, if need be. Having relatives with a
hereditary cancer or disease doesn’t mean that you will be diagnosed, but
staying up to date on appointments with your primary care doctor and other
specialists can help you monitor any symptoms that might arise. A doctor can
also recommend lifestyle changes and a diet plan that can help you reduce your
risk for inheriting any hereditary ailments.

Occupational Health

Due to the amount of time that we spend at work, our professional environments can have a significant effect on our health. Whether it be mental or physical, discussing your occupation and workplace environment with your primary care physician can help you understand future risks, whether they are stress-related or physical challenges.

Laborers, electricians and construction workers often face some of the biggest risks while on the clock. These risks can include stress, pressure on body parts and air quality concerns. One of the biggest occupational risks for construction workers is breathing in fibers like asbestos, silicate and dust that can lead to long-term respiratory issues. Exposure to these small particles can lead to issues like asthma, COPD and even very serious cancers like the rare pleural mesothelioma and your typical lung cancer. Communicating what hazards you may be encountering at work can help your physician draw connections and suggest follow-up appointments with a specialist.

Routine Screenings

No one wants to
plan for a difficult diagnosis, but as we age, it’s crucial to fit in cancer
screenings and other check-ups to stop potential issues in their tracks. The
older we get, the more frequently we need to have our bodies monitored.

Men and women should have their flu shot updated every year and have their cholesterol and blood pressure checked annually. Below are additional tests that should be done regularly for both men and women:

Yearly

  • Clinical breast exam for women
  • Lung cancer screening for those
    with a history of smoking
  • Testicular cancer screenings for
    men
  • Diabetes screening for those with
    a BMI over 25

Every 2-3 Years

  • Pelvic exam and pap smear for
    cervical cancer for women
  • Mammogram after the age of 40 (or
    annually, depending on genetic risk factors) for women
  • Prostate cancer screening after
    age 50 for men
  • Bone density screening after age
    65
  • Cholesterol screening

Every 10 Years

  • Colonoscopy after age 40

Those who have a higher genetic or environmental vulnerability to specific diseases should talk with their doctor about being tested more frequently. In addition to your typical doctor’s appointments, patients should remember to schedule dermatologist appointments and dentist appointments on an annual basis, as well.

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, so it’s a good reminder to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor and talk about what additional tests should be scheduled based on your age, health history and occupation. Getting additional testing may seem nerve-wracking or time-consuming, but it’s the best way to prevent illnesses and keep our health in mind as we age.


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