It’s sometimes very easy to forget about getting and staying healthy. Life gets busy, and if you’re a parent, the focus is mostly on your kids, not on yourself. That includes getting them to their doctor when they get sick, going to the local walk-in clinic, or trying to treat them at home, if it’s something minor. If you’re a woman, you may only be getting your annual mammogram, or ob-gyn exam — both very important.
(Studies show that women are three times more likely to visit their doctors for preventive care than men.) If you’re a man, you may need a push to get help if you need it, because men often feel embarrassed or less “manly” if something is wrong, and tend to avoid the doctor. (Routine dental and vision exams are also crucial for both adults and children.)
The bottom line is that your whole family needs a primary care physician (PCP) that they can visit each year. A PCP can get to know you, and look at the overall picture of your health throughout your lives as you age. A primary care physician can review your family’s health history to be on the look-out for things like cancer or heart disease that might pop up down the road — and talk about ways to help prevent illnesses from starting. Your PCP might notice something that’s of concern early, and can recommend a specialist. He or she can also check for things like high blood pressure, and run blood tests to detect high cholesterol or high blood sugar (and set up a diet and exercise plan to keep those numbers under control, to avoid a stroke, or type 2 diabetes).
If you’re facing an operation, your primary care physician is in touch with your surgeon and you before you have that procedure. Your PCP will either give the green light for you to have the surgery (or not), depending on your overall condition, and risk factors. Your primary care doctor is in the loop on recovery steps after you’re back home, too. While your kids’ doctor (pediatrician) is key to their health as they grow, your PCP is also on board for information, resources, and support — for all of you.
Your own health plan is an ideal resource for locating a primary care doctor in your area, as is the local clinic or hospital. Talk to family and friends, too. You might start off with one PCP, and switch to another over time. But from blood screenings and routine physical exams, to treating injuries and x-rays, a primary care physician is always in your family’s corner.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano
Sources include: www.cdc.gov, www.mayoclinic.org