Content derived from DocTalk with Kial Wiley, MD – Fairwood Clinic. Watch video below.
If you have a primary care provider, you’ve got a partner to guide you through the preventive health process, your foundation for living your healthiest life. An annual check-up with your PCP is your best opportunity to discuss your health in the big picture, identify opportunities for improvement, areas of concern and how to get support for things you might want to change. In just seven minutes, family practice physician Kial Wiley, MD, summarizes the six ways paying attention to preventive health is vital for your overall health.
0:14 | What is preventive health, and why is it important?
Preventive health is the bread and butter of family medicine. It’s always our goal to help people achieve the best level of health that we can, and annual visits are the best time to do that. We talk about your overall health, discuss any screening we may recommend, and just have conversations about how we can work together to help you be the healthiest you can be. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, many people have been delaying these visits and we really want to start seeing people come back to the office.
Six ways preventive health helps you be the healthiest you can be:
- (1:14) Start with an annual checkup with your PCP. Why is this important?
Oftentimes, when someone comes in for a problem like knee pain, ear pain, or an acute complaint, we don’t have the time to look deeper into their overall health. During an annual check-up, we have an opportunity to really get to know patients, to find out what their day-to-day life is like, talk about their lifestyle, feelings regarding their health status, talk about their family, their hobbies, etc. These conversations are important because we really need to know those parts of a person so we can provide good healthcare for the whole person and help you come up with ways to protect your good health status or make adjustments on things you’re not as happy with.
- (2:10) Get your recommended screenings. What are the most common screenings that people should be aware of?
This varies quite a bit depending on gender/sex and how old you are. People are likely most familiar with cancer screenings: mammograms for breast cancer, Pap smears for cervical cancer, and lung cancer screenings that we do for people who smoke or who have smoked in the past. Other screenings people may not be aware of include things like laboratory work that checks your kidney and liver function, or tests that look at your risk for diabetes or plaque buildup in your arteries from high cholesterol. Those are the things that we can work with you on and individualize which screening exam is right for you.
- (3:11) Get your recommended lab tests and share lifestyle details. What are the routine labs and lifestyle details that your provider may check?
Oftentimes we want to know things like what your diet is like, what your activity level is like, how well you’re sleeping, and what your stress level is. These are things that really impact your overall health and wellness and can have a major effect on your health, even later in life. This circles back to the previous question on screenings, where we’ll talk about and check things like your liver and kidney function and any other labs you may need.
- (3:54) Share your family history. What should your provider know about your family history of some health conditions?
The big ones will relate to any cancer history in your family. Some cancers and cancer syndromes can have strong genetic connection, so we always want to know about any type of cancer diagnosis. We also want to hear about things like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, all of which can also have a genetic component. Either way, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and mention something if you’re not sure, because it’s often pretty important.
- (4:35) Be honest with your PCP about past or present smoking and use of alcohol or recreational drugs. Why is it important to share these with your provider?
It’s not uncommon for people to feel fear in sharing this information. Many people fear they’re going to get in trouble or that somehow, someone is going to find out and it will have a negative impact on their life. The truth is, we have no interest in getting you in trouble or in judging any part of your past or present. It’s important for us to know your history regarding smoking and drug/alcohol use because even if you quit a long time ago, those things can leave marks on our health and put you at higher risk for certain conditions. Your doctor is only interested in making sure you’re healthy now and keeping you healthy for the future. The only way we can do that is if we have all the available information.
- (5:36) Check in with your PCP about your current mental health. If you have concerns about depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, how can your provider help?
Access to mental health resources has been a problem for a long time, but it’s become even more significant in the last couple of years. More and more, I’m seeing patients come in who feel frightened, isolated, confused, concerned, and more. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the resources to help manage these things, but your primary care provider can help you navigate the information available and help treat your mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety. If necessary, they can also place additional referrals to psychiatry or a counselor, but many things can be managed with your primary care provider. Either way, it’s always better to check in, let them know what you’re feeling, and allow them to ask some questions so you can choose the best course of action together, and get you back to enjoying life the way you should be.