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Have You Seen a Doctor Lately?

April 10, 2012

Preventive Care Can Keep You Healthy

When was the last time you saw a doctor? Are you up to date on your health screenings? Preventive care can go a long way toward reducing your risk for life-threatening chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Seven out of 10 deaths in this country each year are due to chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While chronic diseases are the most common and costly of all diseases, they are also the most preventable.

Lifestyle factors like eating a healthy diet, being physically active, refraining from smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight play a major role in helping to reduce your risk for these diseases. But regular checkups and health screenings are also critical for preventing disease.

“I have seen those situations where someone comes in and tells me they haven’t seen a doctor in 30 years, but now they just don’t feel right,” said Dr. Michael Parmley, a member of the Washington Township Medical Foundation who practices internal medicine. “Often they are diagnosed with chronic conditions that could have benefitted from treatment much earlier.”

Cancer screenings can dramatically reduce your chances of getting cancer. A colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, two screening methods for colon cancer, can detect a microscopic polyp before it becomes cancerous. Mammograms detect changes in the breast tissue that could be cancerous. Screenings for prostate and cervical cancer can help to prevent those diseases.

Reducing Your Risk

“Generally, we screen for things that either don’t have symptoms or you don’t notice until the disease has progressed,” Parmley said. “When diseases like cancer are caught at an early stage, treatment options and survival rates are much better. We also want to get risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels under control before they lead to disease.”

High blood pressure and high cholesterol significantly increase your risk for conditions like heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease. High blood sugar levels can lead to diabetes.

Parmley recommends that adults over age 40 get a baseline physical exam to determine whether they have any of these risk factors. Those older than 50 should consider getting regular checkups, he said.

“As you age, your chances of developing chronic diseases increases,” Parmley explained. “Eye diseases also increase as you age, so getting an eye exam after age 50 is also important, even if you haven’t noticed any vision problems.”

Keeping up to date on your vaccinations is another way to reduce your risk for disease. Vaccinations can help to prevent diseases like whooping cough, influenza, pneumonia, and shingles.

Primary Care

Primary care services can help you keep your risk factors under control and get the preventive care you need. Primary care is a term used for a health care provider who acts as a first point of consultation for patients and can provide continuing care. Primary care includes health promotion, disease prevention, health maintenance, counseling, patient education, and the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses in a variety of health care settings. Primary care is performed and managed by a personal physician who often collaborates with other health care professionals and specialists.

“Your primary care physician is your health care partner,” Parmley explained. “In addition to diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease, we can also help you make important lifestyle changes like losing weight and quitting smoking. We sit down with you and talk about your health. We look at your family history so we can better understand your risk factors. It really is personal health care.”

The Washington Township Medical Foundation offers comprehensive primary care services close to home, from vaccinations, to well-baby checkups, to annual physical exams, to health screenings, and much more. Services are provided at a number of locations.

“About every kind of health care service you could want is provided through the Washington Township Medical Foundation,” Parmley said. “Services are convenient and accessible, and our list of doctors continues to grow.”
   
For more information about primary care services offered through the Washington Township Medical Foundation and a list of locations, visit www.mywtmf.com.

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