Taking your kids to see the pediatrician was a no-questions-asked requirement. They complained about the cold stethoscope and the shots were never fun. But “good health is worth a little inconvenience,” you’d say. Regardless, the sticker/lollipop on the way out made going to the doctor a pleasant experience.
Today, your kids are out of the house and well visits with your doctor have grown more and more seldom. Why is that? Studies show that about 10% less adults have annual contact with a medical professional, when compared to children. This may not sound surprising to you. After all, children are growing, developing and reaching significant milestones every year. But, should aging adults be checking in on their health just as often? We spoke with Carlos Ventura, MD, a geriatric and internal medicine specialist at Banner Health Center in Buckeye, Arizona to learn about the importance of well visits for adults as we age.
What are well visits for adults?
“Wellness visits are very, very important,” said Dr. Ventura. “Under current Medicare guidelines every patient should have at least one yearly visit with a primary care physician.” Dr. Ventura went on to explain that the model for these visits has changed over the last few years. “You may have grown up calling these ‘physicals.’ Today, wellness exams are more comprehensive, allowing doctors to identify preventive measures that will keep you healthier and save you money. In addition to the physical tests you are familiar with, Dr. Ventura listed a few key steps that could be included in your well visit:
- Adult vaccinations
- Age and sex-appropriate screenings
- Depression and memory testing
- Deterioration of muscle function
- Cancer risk
- Creating a living will
- Questionnaires that help tailor your visit(s)
- Additional screenings your doctor may prescribe
“The list of interventions could be extensive,” said Dr. Ventura. “The point is that, today, doctors are evaluating real people, not checking boxes on a list. Although they are very different, wellness visits for aging adults are just as important as for children.”
What is preventive health?
Lowering your cholesterol with diet, exercise and medication is much easier than open heart surgery. It’s also significantly less damaging to your body (and wallet). That’s the idea behind preventive care – spend a little time today to prevent big costs and risks later down the road. Cardiovascular health is just one of the areas where preventive care is saving lives. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report that colorectal cancer death decreased by 4% every year from 1995 to 2005. This is due in large part to preventive measures such as screenings, education and early detection treatment.
Wellness visits are your opportunity to benefit from preventive care. If your primary care physician believes you could be at risk for disease, they are able to connect you with experts who can dig a little deeper. Don’t be intimidated by this process. Remember that preventive measures are your best defense against chronic disease.
Your first step should be to contact your primary care physician (PCP). Commonly, annual visits are covered under private insurance or Medicare. Dr. Ventura advised that lab work may not be covered by your provider, although some commonly are, such as screenings for prostate and colon cancer. Rest assured that your PCP and office staff will help you understand costs as you go.
Perhaps more than ever, regularly checking in on your health is vital. You can schedule telehealth appointments that allow you to keep your visit without having to leave home. Schedule your visit today.