Preventive care is medical care that aims to keep people healthy and reduce the risk of getting a disease or condition. It takes into account your personal health habits, your family history, and other factors that can let you stay healthy. Preventive care can be offered in many different ways, depending on what your doctor recommends. In some cases, it can be as simple as making sure you get a physical exam once or twice a year.
Other times, it might require more planning and coordination with your healthcare team, such as scheduling regular checkups or even arranging follow-up appointments after an initial visit. The goal is always the same — helping you stay as healthy as possible so you have less chance of developing serious diseases in the future.
What does preventive care include?
Preventive care can be broken down into four main categories. Together, they can help ward off some of the health problems that might develop if you don’t get medical care.
- Screening – This type of care helps uncover potential health problems before they become full-blown. Screening can find conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. It can also find problems such as an overactive thyroid or an abnormal Pap smear.
- Counselling – Preventive care should be a two-way street, so to speak. Many of the health problems people face can be directly related to poor habits and lifestyle choices. So, it’s important for doctors to educate their patients about why they need to change their behaviours.
- Treatment – While screening and counselling help you prevent a lot of different health problems, some of them require treatment. For example, if you have high blood pressure, but don’t take medications to control it, your risk of heart attack and stroke will increase. Similarly, if your Pap smear shows abnormal cells, you’ll need to see a doctor and have them treated.
- Prevention – Some health issues and conditions are so serious that they can’t be treated. But preventing them in the first place is the best way to keep you safe. Some examples of these life-threatening conditions include cancer and liver disease.
Types of preventive care
- Screening – Screening tests look for potential health problems at a very early stage. Screening is performed once or twice a year. It is usually quick, easy, painless, and low-cost. Screening tests are not necessarily effective at preventing a health problem from developing. However, they are often able to detect abnormalities in cells that may lead to cancer, diabetes, an overactive thyroid, or other disorders.
- Counselling – If a screening test comes back abnormal, you’ll need to see a doctor for a more in-depth exam and treatment. But this is not necessarily a sign that you have a health problem. In fact, many people who get screened for cancer don’t actually have cancer. Doctors call this a false positive, and they simply recommend that the patient change their health habits to reduce their risk of developing cancer in the future.
- Treatment – Screening tests can help find early signs of health problems, but they usually can’t treat the conditions they detect. Instead, doctors use various treatments to correct the detected abnormalities.
- Prevention – This type of care is designed to help you avoid getting certain health problems in the first place. For example, if you smoke, your doctor might recommend that you quit. Similarly, if you are at a high risk of developing a certain condition or disease, your doctor might help you make changes in your lifestyle to reduce your risk.
When should you get preventive care?
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that you get a health checkup once a year. This should be a full visit with your doctor, including a physical exam, a review of your medical history, and a prescription refill if necessary. You should also schedule any necessary follow-up appointments based on your doctor’s recommendations. There are certain health issues and conditions that require more frequent care.
This includes conditions that are not always serious, but require treatment in order to be controlled. For example, people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes need to have their blood pressure and/or cholesterol monitored regularly. The same goes for people with an overactive thyroid that is not under control with medication. People who are at high risk of developing a serious health problem, such as cancer or liver disease, should see their doctors regularly, even if they don’t show any signs of disease.
Shouldn’t every visit to a doctor include preventative care?
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Most people do not receive recommended preventative care, but there are a few reasons why this might not be the case for you. First, doctors recommend that you regularly get a checkup, but many people do not make it a priority. It’s easy to get swept up in the daily hustle and bustle of life and forget to schedule time for medical appointments. Second, if you already have a health problem, you might not even know it. This is especially true for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes that are often hidden.
Theories on why we need preventative care
- Healthy People Healthy Planet – The human population is growing and consuming resources at an unsustainable rate. Furthermore, the impact of climate change is likely to become more severe. In order to prevent these types of problems, the global community needs more healthy people. So, doctors are pushing for all people to get needed preventative care, including screenings for cancers and heart disease.
- Disease-Transfer Theory – This theory suggests that as people become sicker and sicker, the overall health of the population decreases. This might sound a little morbid, but it does have a point. The more people who suffer from a certain type of disease, the more people there are who are at risk of developing the same disease.
- Health-Habit Theory – This theory focuses on the connection between health and lifestyle. It is based on the idea that certain behaviours, such as eating healthy food and getting enough exercise, help you stay healthy. Preventive care is simply one example of how doctors are trying to improve people’s health.
- Medical Model – The medical model focuses on the relationship between a disease and the particular cause of that disease. It says that certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, are caused by unhealthy habits, such as smoking. Preventive care is simply one example of how doctors are trying to improve people’s health.
- Disease-Modification Theory – This theory suggests that diseases, such as cancer, are caused by genetic mutations. Preventive care is simply one example of how doctors are trying to modify these genes.
Examples of recommended visits to a doctor
- Annual physical exam – This is recommended for everyone, regardless of their health status. It is a great way to get a general overview of your health and get any necessary treatment such as checkups for high blood pressure or diabetes.
- Annual cancer screening – This is an important part of any routine cancer screening program. There are several types of tests that can be performed to screen for different types of cancer. One of them is called a Pap smear, which is often performed during an annual exam. It is designed to detect abnormal cells on your cervix and other areas of the female reproductive system.
- Annual dental exam – Dental health might not be top of mind for most people, but it is important to take care of your teeth and gums. This is necessary for good oral