As the year comes to a close, New Year’s resolutions become a popular topic. People promise to lose weight, exercise more and quit smoking. While those resolutions are all good – and let’s face it most of them have fallen through the cracks by the end of January – I have one resolution for you that’s not only easy to keep, but will also improve your overall health: Build a solid relationship with your primary care provider.
Most people only think about their primary care provider when they’re sick or when it’s time for their annual physical. Primary care providers, however, are great resources that can be utilized throughout the year. But before I go into that, I want to stress the importance of getting an annual physical. Adults should follow the model of children who see their provider once a year so their vital stats can be checked, immunizations are updated and developmental and safety information is shared. Schools and sports programs require them for entry too, which also serve as another reminder that an annual visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner is needed.
Adults can gain the same benefits as their children by seeing their provider annually. He or she will check your vital stats (and will say something if your weight is too high), check on your immunizations (remember, these don’t end when you hit age 12) and perhaps order some screening tests, such as blood work to check your glucose and cholesterol levels or screening tests like a mammogram or colonoscopy depending on your age, to make sure everything is OK. Those screening tests, such as finding out your cholesterol levels, provide valuable information and help the provider get a true picture of overall health.
Seeing a doctor or nurse practitioner when you’re healthy – and not coughing up a storm for example – means he or she can focus on overall health maintenance issues, such as high blood pressure or being overweight. Let’s be honest here. If a patient comes in complaining of a serious cough and she’s overweight, I am likely not to bring up ways for her to lose those extra pounds since I’m concentrating more on that cough. Only coming in when you’re sick doesn’t give any provider a true picture of your health. It’s important to find a doctor or nurse practitioner and stick with him or her through sickness and health since we gain insight and information by watching you over time.
Healthcare providers can give you solid information about ways to improve your health, such as losing weight. (I know I bring up weight a lot but a lot of health problems are tied to being overweight such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and diabetes.) I have access to handouts on healthy eating and exercise as well as can point you in the right direction to good, solid sources online. I can discuss real, concrete ways that you can make a difference in your everyday life that will improve your overall health.
So for 2013, make one resolution that will be easy to keep. Schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or nurse practitioner and begin building a healthy relationship.
I wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a safe and happy new year!
Scott Schuldes is a certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.