Preventive care is care that is provided to help avoid preventable diseases and conditions and to catch diseases and conditions early if they do develop. It involves annual exams and well visits, vaccinations, lab tests and screenings, breast exams, and
more. Most preventive care is performed by your primary care provider, such as an
internal medicine doctor or family medicine doctor.
What is a preventable disease?
Preventable diseases are, as the name suggests, largely preventable by taking steps to avoid getting the diseases. For example, the evidence is clear that smoking can cause several health conditions, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Most
types of lung cancer are preventable by making lifestyle choices or adjustments, like not smoking or spending time around others who smoke and not working in environments with inhaled carcinogens. Most types of heart disease are also considered preventable.
Eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent them.
There are other preventable diseases, like influenza, chicken pox, pneumonia, and measles, that can often be prevented with vaccinations and taking other precautions to avoid getting sick.
Common preventive screenings and procedures
Doctors perform many preventive screenings and procedures to prevent diseases or detect diseases early when they’re easiest to treat. Some of those screenings are procedures are:
General physical exams
Physical exams are an important part of preventive care visits. During a physical exam,
your doctor will evaluate your general health and look for any specific problems, like infections or signs of health conditions or abnormalities. This type of exam should be done once a year unless your doctor recommends more frequent visits.
Vaccinations, also called immunizations and vaccines, are a common and effective way to prevent several
diseases. Some of the diseases vaccines protect against are influenza, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), pertussis (whooping cough), diphtheria, tetanus, chicken pox, HPV, polio, small pox, pneumonia, meningitis, some forms of hepatitis, rotavirus,
and Haemophilus influenzae bype b (Hib). Vaccines are a critical component of disease prevention – not only for individuals, but also for the community. When used regularly and by the majority of the population, they can wipe out deadly diseases
completely. For example, in the United States, vaccines wiped out polio and small pox and nearly eradicated measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough. However, because of some people choosing not to vaccinate their children, these diseases have
begun to resurface
Cholesterol screenings test your blood for the presence of blood cholesterol, such as your
HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. This is done to find out whether your have a healthy level of blood cholesterol because high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and other health conditions. Ask your doctor how often you should have cholesterol
Blood pressure screening
A blood pressure screening is done by measuring your blood pressure using a cuff and a stethoscope (used
to hear the blood pressure). There are automatic blood pressure monitors as well that don’t require a person to listen to your blood pressure during the test. Blood pressure screening should start young, and it should be done at least once a
year. Most doctors will take blood pressure readings at every visit because it’s a quick, painless, and inexpensive test.
Diabetes testing, such as testing for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
General diabetes screening involves a blood test to check blood sugar levels. One of the early signs of Type II diabetes is elevated blood sugar. This test is usually done first thing in the morning after fasting for 12 to 14 hours. How often you need
this test will depend upon your age and risk factors. Ask your doctor what’s right for you.
Breast exams involve feeling breast tissue for any lumps or abnormalities and visually examining the breasts for signs of disease. Breast exams help screen for breast cancer. Women usually start having breast exams once they reach adulthood, and the exams
are done by a doctor once a year. However, every woman should do monthly self-exams for early detection of breast changes.
Mammograms are tests to check for breast cancer or other changes in breast tissue. Guidelines for mammograms are changing, and different doctors
may have varying recommendations. However, women without a family history or known genetic risk factors should have a first baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40, and most women should have a screening mammogram every year after their first.
Women with a family history of breast cancer or certain genetic mutations that put them at high risk for developing breast cancer (like the BRCA gene mutations) should have earlier and more frequent tests. Talk to your doctor about what’s right
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a test to look for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous changes on the cervix. Most women should have their first Pap test after they turn 18 or when they become sexually active. The follow up tests will depend upon
your health and sexual history. Ask your doctor when you should have your first test and how often you should have them.
Prostate exams are tests to look for signs of prostate cancer in men. Most men have their first prostate exam at age 50. Ask your doctor when the right time is for you to begin having prostate exams and how often you’ll need them.
A colonoscopy is a test to check the colon (the large intestine) for signs of cancer or pre-cancerous changes. Current recommendations
are for women and men who are healthy and don’t have known risk factors to have their first colonoscopy at age 50. Ask your doctor what’s right for you.
Osteoporosis screening tests bone density to look for signs of osteoporosis (weakening of the bones). Experts have differing
opinions about bone scans and when they are useful. Talk to your doctor about your risks for osteoporosis and what is right for you regarding screenings.
Screening for sexually transmitted infections
Not all doctors will screen regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but if you are sexually active, it’s something to talk to your doctor about. While condoms can protect against many STIs, they don’t protect against all of them,
and they are not 100 percent effective when they do offer protection.
Preventive care may also include health and wellness counseling about the importance of not smoking; getting to and maintaining a healthy weight; eating a balanced, healthy diet; limiting alcohol intake; and treating any mental health concerns, like depression
Different levels of preventive care
There are different levels of preventive care: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary prevention is care to avoid health problems by increasing resistance to disease or eliminating the problems that cause disease. Primary prevention works to address the root cause of disease and prevent it before it occurs. Examples of primary
preventive care are getting vaccinations, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke.
Secondary prevention is care to either detect or treat an existing disease or condition prior to noticeable symptoms. Secondary prevention is different from primary prevention in that it addresses diseases early, often before the patient knows they are
at risk. For example, a doctor might screen for high blood pressure or cancer before the patient ever notices any signs or symptoms. Physical exams, blood cholesterol tests, blood pressure screenings, mammograms, and colonoscopies are all examples
of secondary preventive care.
Tertiary prevention is care that will either cure, rehabilitate, or treat patients to help reduce the effects of the condition or prolong life and improve quality of life. Examples of tertiary care are surgery to remove cancerous growths, radiation treatment,
and medications, like biologics for autoimmune disease.
This is a type of care that aims to protect patients from unnecessary or harmful medical tests or treatment. Examples may be unnecessary prostate screens in men without symptoms, multiple medications, injections for back pain, antibiotic prescriptions
for viral illness that cannot be cured with antibiotics, and specialist visits for simple medical care a primary care doctor should address (like diabetes and generalized back pain).
Primal and primordial prevention
The goal of this type of care is to help prevent disease very early, even before risks develop. It’s more about working with parents to properly care for their children during the most important developmental years so the children develop and grow
normally. Parental leave that allows parent-child bonding is a form of primordial prevention, as is skin-to-skin contact between parents and infants.
Preventive care is an important part of healthcare. If more people sought preventive care on a regular basis, we could reduce the incidence of many major diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. It’s much easier to take steps to remain healthy
than it is to treat disease once it has begun. For example, it’s easier to exercise, eat a heart-healthy diet, and maintain a healthy weight than it is to effectively treat heart disease. And it’s easier to never start smoking in the first
place than it is to quit smoking or treat the physical effects of smoking.
Most insurance companies cover preventive care at 100 percent without a copay. This is done to encourage people to go to the doctor every year and have check-ups. If you haven’t been to your doctor this year, call today and make an appointment.
If you don’t have a primary care physician, call Beaumont at 800-633-7377 to schedule a first visit. Then talk to your doctor about any screenings and tests you should have and when you should have them.
Primary Care at Beaumont
Having a good relationship with your primary care doctor is a great way to stay on top of your preventive care. Beaumont offers several types of primary care doctors, including family medicine doctors, internal medicine doctors, pediatricians, and doctors
of osteopathy. Our primary care physicians all work with you to obtain and maintain your optimal health. Their focus is on keeping you healthy and treating you when you get sick or have a health concern. Call us today at 248-965-1860 to schedule your
preventive care visit or your screening tests.