What is Preventive Healthcare and Can You Participate?
It’s no secret that many people hate the doctor. Whether it’s shots, finger pricks, blood testing, or even just your typical annual check up, people dread going to the doctor. But what if you knew that visiting your primary care doctor just once a year for preventive healthcare could save you from excess doctor visits and treatments in the future?
- Preventive healthcare has three main categories, and in order to benefit most from it, it’s important to visit your doctor at least once a year to check for anything unusual.
- Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best thing you can do at home to prevent disease.
- Mental health concerns are just as important as visible physical concerns and should be taken seriously. Your primary care doctors have many ways to help you and it’s important to reach out if you’re feeling any negative thoughts towards yourself.
What is Preventive Healthcare?
What exactly is preventive care? Preventive care, another term for prophylaxis, is a healthcare approach to lessen your chances of disease and dysfunction. Its goals are to prolong life and reduce disability. There are three categories of preventive care: primary prevention, secondary prevention, and tertiary prevention.
Primary prevention is designed to prevent the onset of disease. This includes childhood vaccines, counseling, and weight loss programs. Secondary prevention aims to prevent the worsening of disease once it has been discovered and diagnosed. Secondary preventive care tends to come in the form of screenings that lead to early diagnosis and prompt treatments. Tertiary preventive care minimizes the progression of the disease and the symptoms that accompany it. Tertiary preventive care mainly aims to keep the spread of the disease at bay and provide patients with as much comfort as possible during treatment.
Disease can be caused by several different factors that are oftentimes uncontrollable by us as the patient. These factors include: environmental factors, genetic predisposition, disease agents, and many more. However, some of the factors that can be controlled by us as patients are lifestyle choices.
What Can I Do On My Own?
These lifestyle choices include having a balanced diet, getting physical activity approximately four to five days a week, drinking enough water, getting around eight hours of sleep a day, and above all: taking care of your mental health. I know all of these things sound redundant, and it’s stuff you learned in elementary school, but people still do not take these precautions seriously and end up in the hospital years later for things that could’ve easily been prevented.
The most important lifestyle choice to keep you healthy would be to see your primary care doctor at least once a year. Yes, doctor visits are for adults too, not just children. Surveys find that about 40% of adults over the age of 30 skip their annual doctor visit. And about 44% of adults over the age of 30 didn’t see their doctor when they were sick or injured due to cost reasons.
The Dreaded Doctor's Appointment
The doctor’s office can be an intimidating place to say the least. The needles, the scale; it’s an invasive process. And the overall mood of the doctor’s office is not very upbeat and happy like it was when you were a kid. Not to mention, people live life off convenience. To them, attending a yearly doctor's visit is inconvenient, especially because most of the time nothing is wrong with them. That is where preventive care plays such a crucial role.
With anything in medicine and especially the body, prevention is always easier than treatment. Being able to catch an illness, disease, infection, or even cancer early on will not only provide you with better chances of recovery but also a more cost effective treatment. If the issue is caught early on, you will need fewer treatments than if it were discovered after it has moved throughout the entire body. Therefore, the fewer treatments and medications you need, the less money you will spend.
Preventive care is often covered 100% by your health plan and offers so many benefits in cost and health. Studies show that about 70% of employers also offer preventive health care benefits in case your health insurance doesn’t.
Why Preventive Healthcare is Effective
Now, how effective is preventive care really? Studies show that about 40% of deaths in the United States alone could’ve been prevented if proper preventive care was taken seriously. In the United States, there are about 8,000 deaths each day. This means that roughly 3,200 of those deaths could have been prevented with preventive care measures. These numbers show how effective preventive care really is.
When the correct precautions are taken, not only will your wallet thank you, but, most importantly, so will your body. Of course preventing infections and diseases is ideal, but being able to detect, diagnose and treat those infections and diseases early on will help you and your doctor.
A major component of preventive care is testing. There are tests for pretty much any and all health care concerns. Getting tested on a regular basis is so important because it allows you and your doctor to recognize any abnormalities and treat them right away and gives you knowledge on how to prevent these from happening in the future. If you’re sexually active, getting STI tests at least once a year is important for you and your partner/partners.
Getting regular pap smears for females once you are 21 is a great way to test for any abnormalities or early onsets of cancers. Getting regular mammogram screenings, blood tests to detect vitamin deficiencies, and thousands more. It’s much better to test for these issues regularly than to wait until you start experiencing any pain or discomfort. It will save you time, pain, money, and stress.
Another aspect of preventive care that is often overlooked is mental health. So many people of all ages struggle with mental health issues. The three most common in the United States are anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. While many people still struggle to see mental health as a real healthcare issue, it is just as serious as any other disease. Suicide is the fastest growing cause of death in the world, and although not every treatment works uniformly for every person, it is so important to talk to your primary care doctor to get the help you need.
Your doctor can refer you to several different therapists and psychologists to provide you with talk therapy. Or if you feel like that’s not helping enough, they can also refer you to a psychiatrist, which is a licensed professional that is able to prescribe medication to potentially treat the issue.
Mental health should not be overlooked, especially in the age of a pandemic. This is one of the many benefits of preventive care. Your primary care doctors are trained in a variety of medicine and can provide you with treatments or referrals to any concerns you have. And as mentioned previously, it is oftentimes completely covered by insurance or healthcare providers.
Overall, prevention is always better and easier than treatment. And preventive care provides you with all the proper tests and screenings to keep any healthcare issues at bay. It’s cost effective and saves you the pain and discomfort of several infections and diseases. This is your reminder to schedule your annual check up!
Written by Jordan Hammaren