picture of a doctorYou’ve heard the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Eating right, making healthy choices, and not smoking are all great ways to prevent disease, but regular medical visits are also part of a healthy lifestyle.

Facts Don’t Lie

The Boston Globe reports that 34% of American adults have not talked with or seen a doctor in a year. But that may not mean they are healthy. With 60% of American adults having one or more chronic health conditions requiring care, statistics indicate that everyone who needs to see a doctor may not be doing so.

Let’s face it. A mammogram isn’t something most women look forward to. But women over 40 who get annual mammograms see a 40% reduction in breast cancer deaths. And for people 50 and older, colonoscopies reduce chances of dying from colon cancer by an estimated 60%.

If that doesn’t motivate you, the Boston Globe’s report suggests that costs will. It’s a bad idea to wait until you need an emergency room visit for conditions your primary care physician could have treated in the office. You will pay significantly more for treatment in a hospital than you will for the same condition treated in your primary care physician’s office.

You might think, But I’m not sick. Why spend money and time seeing a doctor? The answer is simple. Even when you think you are healthy, future problems may be lurking, undetected. An annual checkup can help make sure those issues get addressed before they become a health crisis. It is less costly and time consuming to maintain your health than it is to try to correct problems down the road.

Below are a few preventive measures you can take each year to keep yourself living your healthiest life.

Get Recommended Health Screenings at Every Age

Experts at Santa Rosa Medical Group say there are certain medical screenings and tests their providers may recommend based on a patient’s age, but caution that depending on your medical history, you should always consult your doctor to see which screenings and tests are right for you.

Don’t Put Off Your Flu Shot

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for most people. (Always discuss your own personal risks with your doctor.) According to studies conducted by the CDC, flu vaccination reduces the risk of getting sick by 40% to 60% during flu season. Keep this in mind, too: Getting a flu shot can also help reduce your chances of missing work or ending up in the hospital. The CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevented 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations in 2016-2017.

Know Your Numbers

As part of your annual well patient checkup, ask your physician about ordering a chemistry panel and complete blood count (CBC), plus any other blood work he or she recommends for you.

A chemistry panel is a low-cost blood test that gives a quick snapshot of your overall health, with information helpful in assessing your vascular, liver, kidney and blood cell status. It also provides information related to your cholesterol numbers and blood glucose, helping detect serious health conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes. A CBC gives information about your blood cell balance, useful in diagnosing infection, anemia, and other abnormalities. By detecting problems early, you can potentially avoid costly treatment down the road.

Don’t Forget Your Teeth

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research warns against the dangers of improper dental care. Experts say a regular dental checkup can help keep your teeth and gums healthy, and help you potentially avoid expensive dental procedures down the road. You should have a dental visit every six months, or as often as recommended by your dentist. Extractions and dentures can cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Some studies even indicate that gum disease may contribute to other, more serious health conditions. Taking care of your teeth is an important step in maintaining your overall health.

What to Do When Medical Problems Surface

What if preventive care detects a health problem—and expenses—you did not expect? First off, don’t delay treatment. The sooner you address potential problems, the better your chances are of keeping them from becoming worse.

Don’t let financial concerns prevent you from taking care of your health. Find out what your insurance covers, and what your other options are. Talk to your doctor and share your concerns; maybe lower-cost options he or she can recommend. Ultimately, though, staying healthy is an expense most people agree is worth the cost. Your health has a value beyond any dollar amount.



Kate is a freelance writer who is passionate about helping others succeed in life. When she is not blogging for Dollars & Sense, she can be found managing her own busy life with her husband, three kids, and three dogs.