It’s a great time of year to refocus on health. Whether you’re working on eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables or exercising regularly, physician assistant Jim Zimmerman offers some simple tips for improving your health.
Schedule an annual exam
Annual exams are more than simply measuring your current height, weight and blood pressure.
“An annual exam covers a wide range of topics – physical health, mental health, changes in family history, and a number of screenings,” said Zimmerman, who works at Little Snake River Clinic, managed by UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, in Baggs. “We want to get a full picture of your current health because proactively addressing health issues is always better than reacting to them.”
Your primary care provider knows your family history and is able to track any changes in your health from year to year as well has provide support for chronic conditions, like diabetes.
Return to age-based screenings
Cancer screenings allow detection before progression.
“Because many screenings were cancelled or postponed in the early days of the pandemic and people haven’t returned to those screenings appropriately, we’re seeing cancers detected at more advanced stages rather than at a pre-cancerous or early stage,” said Zimmerman. “I’ve seen prostate cancer that was undetected for the last year and a half that would have probably been detected had the patient had his routine prostate screenings.”
Consult your provider for the most current recommendations on age-based screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, pelvic exams and prostate screenings, among others. Family history or other risk factors may indicate that a screening take place earlier than the recommended age.
Something as simple as a blood draw can provide a deeper understanding of your current health while at the same time, may identify things that could be lurking in the background.
Common tests include a complete blood count to measure red and white blood cells; a metabolic panel to test kidney and liver function; blood glucose to measure the amount of sugar in your blood; and a lipid panel to check cholesterol. Your provider may order other tests based on our current health and family history.
Get vaccinated and boosted
“COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots have dominated the news recently, and for good measure as they remain our best defense against the virus,” said Zimmerman. “But it’s also important to receive a flu shot in a timely manner and stay up to date on other vaccines, too.”
Your provider may recommend vaccinations based on age, such as the shingles vaccine if you are 50 or older. Time since the last dose of a vaccine can factor in, such as needing a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) or Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) booster every 10 years.
Importantly, Zimmerman encourages people to be confident in receiving care.
“It’s safe to return to and receive routine medical care – it’s more dangerous if you keep putting it off,” he said. “All precautions continue to be taken to ensure care can be delivered safely.”