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Let’s talk about primary care!

by Dr. Nicole Maksymiw, MPH, Primary Health of Connecticut

Let’s talk about primary care. One of the mainstays of primary care is preventive medicine. Overall, health problems are much easier to treat when they are caught early. With our busy lives and frequent changes in health guidelines, keeping up with preventive care can seem daunting. My goal with this article is to present the basic health screenings all patients should get. Knowledge gives you the power to help you take charge of your own health. 

Before I get into the recommendations, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss two of the most important things a person can do to stay healthy: avoid cigarettes and limit sugar intake. Cigarettes, in any amount, are toxic to our bodies and should be avoided at all costs. Sugar can also be harmful and should be consumed only in moderation. If you’re at a birthday party, go ahead and have a slice of cake! But don’t make it a part of your daily routine. 

Let’s start with the basics. All adults over age 18 should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years, more frequently if they are at higher risk. Higher risk includes having a family history of hypertension, being a current or recent smoker, or having conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, such as diabetes, obesity, or high cholesterol. Testing for cholesterol and diabetes is a bit more individualized based on age, gender and risk factors. Discuss with your doctor how frequently these should be done for you. 

Everyone should get an eye exam every two years. Eye exams are not just about checking your vision. Conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration fare much better when caught early. 

Those aged 50 and over who are smokers or have smoked a significant amount in the past 15 years should get an annual screening CT scan of their chest. Prior to this screening recommendation, almost all lung cancers found were advanced. This allows lesions to be detected sooner when they are much more likely to be easily removed and cured. Men between the ages of 65-75 who have smoked should also have a one-time ultrasound screening of their abdomen to assess the size of their aorta. 

Now let’s talk about colon cancer screening. For this, you have options, but by far the best test is a colonoscopy. This should be started at age 45. If all is normal, you will need another in 10 years. If any polyps are found, the interval may change for future screenings. If you choose not to do a colonoscopy, a Cologuard test is the next best

option and can be done every three years as long as the results are normal. Keep in mind that family history will change at what age and how frequently you should be screened. 

For women, a screening mammogram should be done starting at age 40 and then yearly after that. Pap smears should start at age 21. Assuming they are normal, they should be done every three years until age 30, and then every five years after that until age 65. Prostate cancer screening for men is a bit more controversial, but the general consensus is to discuss with your doctor having a PSA blood test at age 50 (or age 45 if high risk) and do the test yearly. 

While the above can seem like a lot of information, partnering with a primary care doctor you know and trust can help you navigate. That way, in addition to getting your preventive screenings done in a timely manner, you can assess your overall health status, manage chronic conditions and take care of any problems or illnesses that may pop up along the way. 

If you have any questions or are looking for a new primary care doctor give me a call at 203-212-9959 or email me at primaryhealth@primaryhealthct.com. At Primary Health of Connecticut I have immediate availability, see my patients right away and give them a direct access line to me.

Website: https://www.primaryhealthct.com/