That’s it!

Many of us are pleased with the progress toward ending the Covid Pandemic, with many of the restrictions being reduced or eliminated. Many others remain very cautious and concerned about that reduction and elimination of restrictions. The local and broader healthcare community continues to work towards continuing to ease the Covid pandemic, as we move further along into 2022. Vaccines and treatments have aided the fight, yet Covid variants remains in our communities. Efforts focus, now, on ways in which we are able to live with Covid safely.

One of the concerns that have arisen out of the pandemic is that many people have delayed healthcare checkups, tests and perhaps even attention to their chronic problems. Check-ins with your doctor or nurse practitioner along the lifespan are the best way to a healthy life. Finding problems early allows for better management of disease, a cure of some conditions, or peace of mind that one is in good health. If you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse practitioner, it’s important you find one. Your regular doctor or nurse practitioner is able to manage your overall care, referring you to specialists as necessary, and may prevent you having to go to the Emergency Department. Going to the Emergency Department should be used for sudden more severe symptoms, illnesses, and injuries. Urgent Care is for minor injuries and illnesses when offices are not available.

Let’s review some of the check-ins and testing that can help you live a healthier life.

  • A physical exam is recommended every 2 or 3 years for healthy people in their 20’s. For those in their 30’s and 40’s, every other year is best. Everyone over the age of 50 should receive a yearly physical exam. Chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension creep up silently and can be caught at your exam when diagnostic labs are performed. Early treatment helps limit the impacts of these diseases such as kidney, stroke, and heart issues.
  • Vaccinations are important and can be discussed with your doctor or nurse practitioner at the time of your exam. Besides Covid and Flu, you should be up to date with TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) every 10 years. Also there are vaccines for shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia. Those younger than 26 should consider HPV vaccine (against the human papilloma virus which can lead to cancer).
  • A colonoscopy is recommended for people aged 45 to 75 every 5 to 10 years depending on your risk, such as family history, presence of polyps, diverticulum, issues with bowel movements, etc. The gastroenterologist will discuss the timetable with you after your first procedure. A stool sample may also be sent as a first step if your health and insurance provider agree it would be appropriate for you. From age 75 to 85 discuss the need for further colonoscopies. There have been concerns lately that bowel cancers have occurred at younger ages. Let your provider know of any changes in bowel habits, very dark or blood in stool, unintended weight loss. New data reveals that African-American males have a 24% and females a 19% higher rate of colon cancer than Caucasian people. Researchers are working on the factors that contribute to this disparity.
  • For women who are not pregnant, a yearly pelvic exam and pap screen are recommended from age 25 to 65. After age 65, it will be determined by your history and consulting with the gynecologist.
  • Mammograms are currently recommended yearly from age 40 to 55. After age 55, you may be able to do one every 2 years depending on advisement from the radiologist and your regular doctor or nurse practitioner. Also, remember to do monthly breast self-exams.
  • For men, a rectal exam for prostate check should be completed by age 50. A lab test (PSA) may also be ordered.
  • In addition, dental care is very important. Gum disease can lead to cavities and tooth loss. It can also impact your heart and vascular health, to the surprise of many.

Some of these tests may be a bit uncomfortable, perhaps embarrassing, or make you feel an invasion of your privacy. Share your apprehensions and concerns with the healthcare people. They will understand your apprehensions and concerns and will help you through their caring and compassion. The peace of mind you gain from knowing the test results, or catching an issue early, so that the most positive outcome can be achieved are the goals. Delaying checkups, ignoring symptoms, or not taking prescribed medications can lead to greater health challenges.

References: American College of Family Physicians; American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; American College of Gastroenterology; American College of Dentists

Submitted by Denise Book and Cora Threadgill