Health & Medicine

You are the key player in your own health

Most people visit their health care provider when they have signs or symptoms that signal there is something abnormal. However, staying healthy also means preventing or reducing the risk of developing illnesses or disease.

Health maintenance or preventive care involves the combination of education, communication, and counseling to maximize early detection of diseases or prevent them altogether. During routine preventive care visits you can expect to receive a physical exam and possibly blood work or diagnostic tests. Your health care provider will discuss your overall health and identify potential risk factors. Remember, the goal of preventive care is to prevent or reduce the risk of developing chronic illness and diseases so that you can stay healthier and live longer.

The frequency and timing of health screenings are dependent on your age, gender, and health status, personal medical and family history, and other considerations. Your and your health care provider should work together to develop a plan for preventive health screenings.

There are several steps that a person can take to remain healthy and become their own health care advocate.

Routine care

Regular visits with a health care provider help you stay up to date on necessary health screenings and immunizations. Visits should not occur only when you feel sick.

Know your body

Changes that occur in the body can be the first sign that something is wrong. Start making healthy decisions, such as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and exercise, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and maintaining safe sex practices. These are risk factors for several chronic illnesses. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression and increasing your awareness of risk factors for exposure to violence or physical injury will help you maintain mental health and develop a more positive outlook on life.

Know your history

Knowing your personal health history is important for everyone. Create a list of current and past medical histories for you and your immediate family. They should include: illnesses that you had as a child or an adult, immunization history, any surgeries or procedures (with reasons and dates if possible), pregnancy, tobacco and alcohol use. Your history should also include current and past medications you took for any chronic illness or disease. Don't forget to include any known allergies or reactions to medications. Additionally, your family history can be an important indicator for potential risk of developing illnesses or diseases.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force provides personalized individual health recommendations based on your age and gender. You can also send cards to encourage others to stay up to date on health screenings. The tools can be downloaded to any electronic device: EPSS.AHRQ.gov/PDA/index.jsp or used directly on the website, Healthfinder.gov/MyHealthfinder/. The American Academy of Family Physicians also offers a Health Maintenance Guidelines Summary Table at http://bit.ly/1sNe6E9

You are perhaps the most important part of the team responsible for your good health. Making prevention and a healthy lifestyle a priority can greatly increase your vitality and longevity.

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