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Make Time for Wellness: Why Routine Health Checkups Matter


By Kristy Warren 

 

With our busy schedules, it can be challenging to make time for our own wellness, and we sometimes let routine health checkups slide. Jonelle Brennan from the Laurel Health Centers shares how you can get back on track with important preventive health screenings and why seeing your provider when you’re well can be just as important as getting help when you’re sick.

 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SEE OUR DOCTOR EVEN WHEN WE’RE FEELING WELL?

 

As the famous saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well checks and preventive screenings are designed to keep people healthy. It’s also the perfect time to ask your personal health questions and get an expert opinion, including discussing your family’s health history and reviewing / updating medications.

 

Routine blood work and physical exams establish healthy baselines for your body—they help both you and your provider learn what’s normal for you. By having a healthy baseline to compare against, your provider can spot potential trouble early and manage risk factors before more acute symptoms or serious problems have a chance to develop. For example, a PSA test monitors the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. When conducted yearly, your provider can track the results over time to compare data and quickly identify problems even before noticeable symptoms appear (e.g., if PSA levels are sharply rising, it may be due to prostate cancer or other prostate-related conditions like an enlarged or inflamed prostate).

 

Some preventive screenings also provide an opportunity to stop potential problems before they gain traction. Pap smears and colonoscopies help flag pre-cancerous cells so your provider can biopsy and remove the tissue if needed before it has a chance to develop into cancer. Routine screenings also help patients with chronic illness monitor their symptoms and help their provider better evaluate how well their condition is being managed by specific medications or diets.

 

Pediatric well visits monitor important childhood health, growth, and developmental milestones.

Child high-fiving their family doctor at a well child checkup

Wellness visits also provide a great opportunity to build a strong relationship with your family medicine provider, especially for kids who might otherwise only associate doctors with feeling bad or needles. Seeing a pediatric provider when they’re feeling well helps avoid developing a negative association with the doctor’s office that may make sick visits harder or cause kids to downplay illness to avoid a trip to the office. 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE COME IN FOR WELL CHECKS?


It's important to stay on track with well checks, including physicals, hearing tests, vision screenings, and dental exams. Everyone should have a physical exam each year and make regular trips to the dentist for cleanings to keep their smiles healthy (1-2 dental cleaning visits per year). For other routine care, your provider can advise how often you should come in for wellness screenings based on your age, personal risk factors, and family health history.

 

Routine screenings and immunizations help us stay protected. While it may be tempting to wait until you feel ill, problems can develop before they’re easily detectable in the form of symptoms. Don't put off a potentially life-saving preventive screening like a breast exam or mammogram—early detection can make a big difference in treatment and recovery.

 

WHAT CAN WE DO TO GET BACK ON TRACK WITH OUR WELLNESS?

The Laurel Health Centers are working toward healthier tomorrows for everyone and are committed to improving community health and well-being. Small healthy changes can make a big impact on your overall health. Here are some key ways you can get back on track with your wellness goals and strengthen your physical, mental, and emotional health:

 

  • Make space for mental wellness in your daily routine. Life can be challenging and overwhelming. It’s essential to find healthy ways to reduce stress and cope with difficult situations. Building a support system to help you with health goals and challenges plays an important role in navigating hard situations with resilience. It’s also important to recognize when to reach out for additional support / guidance. The Laurel Behavioral Health team is here to provide support, encouragement, and resources at 570-723-0620.

  • Eat well and stay hydrated. At this point “eat more fruits and veggies” or “make sure you drink enough water” may sound cliché, but that’s advised so often because they’re cornerstones in a healthy foundation. It can be more challenging than expected to fit in enough plants and water; keeping a food diary may help you better track your current intake and where you’d like to make changes. How many calories and water we need varies by person and activity level, so look to your provider for personalized recommendations.

    If you have a condition requiring a restricted diet or you’re overwhelmed by the overabundance of nutrition advice available online, a registered dietitian can cut through the noise to make expert and personalized nutrition recommendations. Registered dietitian Gena Rasmussen, MS, RD / LDN helps patients develop healthy sustainable habits they can stick with—one healthy habit at a time. To make an appointment, call your local Laurel Health Center or 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) 

  • Come in for a wellness checkup. The pandemic has disrupted our routines, including the routine scheduling of well checkups and preventive exams that help us stay in tune with our body. If you’re due for a visit, make an appointment. It’s always important to monitor our health and get changes checked out promptly vs. waiting—finding a problem early often makes it easier to treat and speeds recovery.

  • Exercise. Exercise can boost our mood, sharpen our mind, improve our sleep, and help us stay flexible, mobile, and physically fit. The best type of exercise is an activity you can do safely and enjoy enough to stick with it! Do you struggle to make time for exercise? Join a class or involve friends / family to help you carve out time and build an exercise routine. Before starting any type of exercise, always speak with your healthcare provider first. Not all exercises are appropriate for everyone and exercising the wrong way or pushing yourself too hard too quickly can put you at risk for injury.

As a base goal, healthy adults should target at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week (e.g., brisk walking) and two days per week doing strength training activities that stimulate their muscles (e.g., lifting weights, sit ups, squats, pushups, planking, or a calisthenics routine).

 

Remember, that exercise doesn’t have to be done all at once! Increments of 10-15 minutes spread out over the week are just as effective.

Healthy older adults enjoying a morning jog


IF WE’VE BEEN PUTTING OFF WELLNESS SCREENINGS, WHAT SHOULD WE SCHEDULE RIGHT NOW?

 

If it's been a while since you've been in to see your healthcare provider, it's a good idea to come in for a physical exam. If you know you're due for a health screening or can't remember the last time you had one, call your Laurel Health Center or Laurel Pediatrics to get scheduled.

 

Your health matters. Take time for important routine health screenings like lab work, immunizations, physicals, and age-based screenings like breast exams and PSA tests. Need a healthcare provider? Laurel Health has you covered with convenient hours and an expert team of providers ready to provide great care at 11 convenient locations throughout Tioga and Bradford Counties.  

 

If you are due for a physical or a routine health screening, don’t wait. Call your Laurel Health Center today at 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354).

 

Need help managing your care, figuring out what type of screenings you should schedule, or coordinating between specialists and your family provider? Laurel Health’s care coordination team and community health educators are standing by to help! To discuss community resources or your care needs, call your local health center or click here to visit our contact page

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