While a trip to the doctor’s office may not fit easily into a busy schedule, especially if you don’t feel sick at the moment, regular physical checkups can really pay off.
Ochsner Health System staff physician Dr. Brandon Hider said he regularly sees patients who come in for a routine checkup that ends up rooting out larger problems.
“Every day we catch somebody coming in with a preventable disease,” Dr. Hider said. “We see a lot of high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. We can catch it in early stages before it becomes a problem, before you need advanced medical care, before you need four or five different medications a day.”
Hider said chronic problems like diabetes and high blood pressure can develop unnoticed for months or years, causing no discomfort or outward symptoms until it’s too late.
“Most people don’t come in until they have complications, so these regular physical checkups are to prevent those complications,” Dr. Hider said.
Yearly checkups are recommended for everyone ages three and above, Dr. Hider said, with subsequent follow-ups required if the checkup reveals an underlying problem.
Dr. Hider recommends that patients go to their general practitioner for checkups, as specialists can miss problems outside of their range of specialty. General practice physicians usually include family physicians, internists, pediatricians and some gynecologists.
The checkup process is relatively quick and can be accomplished in one day, Dr. Hider said, including a range of blood tests that can catch a variety of health problems early.
“If we catch diseases or any of the processes in the early stages, the earlier you catch them, the shorter and easier the treatment,” he said. “You can get back to your regular life faster.”
In addition to catching existing problems like cancer, Dr. Hider said regular checkups can also include vaccinations that can prevent future problems.
“You can not only catch cancers early, you can get immunizations to prevent cancer,” he said. “There are several different cancers that are now preventable with certain immunizations, including cervical cancer.”
Hider recommends scheduling annual checkups around holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or other events to make the yearly routine easier to remember.
“I find that it’s good to schedule it around an event,” he said. “If you do it the same time every year and that event comes up every year, you can remember that it’s time to get your physical exam.”
“A lot of people are afraid to come to the doctor because they are afraid they’re going to be told bad news,” he said. “But for everybody that finds out bad news, we do get patients that get encouraging results, and that’s why you want to come in early, to prevent it from being horrific news versus finding something out in the early stages with a routine screening.”
To take the Ochsner Health Check to know which physical exams and tests are recommended for your age and gender, click here.