5 Conditions Regular Check-Ups in Your 20s & 30s Can Prevent
March 13, 2023
When you’re young and healthy, going to the doctor for routine checkups – especially if you’re not sick– can sometimes feel unnecessary. However, regular care in your 20s, 30s and beyond is the best way to catch problems early – and potentially prevent diseases from developing in the first place.
Primary care is so important because without annual exams, a lot of health issues may go unchecked for many years until they become serious health problems,” says University Hospitals family medicine physician, Fenny Zen, MD. “Patients may have chronic health conditions but are unaware because they may be asymptomatic for many years and are frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage several years down the road.”
The Prevention Top 5
With regular visits, your PCP will be able to pinpoint problem areas that can be addressed before they turn into more serious health concerns. Dr. Zen identifies several areas in which early evaluation can prove to be beneficial to your health in the long run.
#1: Weight Gain/Obesity. Obesity can lead to a host of other problems down the road, including hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, chronic back pain, sleep apnea and more. Your PCP will monitor your weight at each visit and provide counseling on lifestyle changes, if necessary, to improve your overall health.
#2: Diabetes. Your PCP may also check your A1C, a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months, at your annual exam. This is especially important if you are in an at-risk group for diabetes, such as being overweight or obese, or have a family history of diabetes. This test can also determine if you are pre-diabetic.
“It is easier to implement lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and diet modification, when you are in the pre-diabetic range,” says. Dr. Zen. “This information may be helpful for patients because they may not know the severity of their risk of developing diabetes.”
#3: Skin Changes. Your PCP can keep a close eye on skin changes, especially moles, at your annual visit. Changes in a mole’s appearance or size may warrant further evaluation. Skin cancer is most treatable when it is caught early, so your PCP can advise you on signs to look for and when to seek care for skin changes.
“Patients should know the importance of limiting sun exposure and wearing (and reapplying) sunscreen when out in the sun, as well as avoiding tanning beds”, says Dr. Zen.
#4: Depression and Mental Health. If you have a family history or personal history of behavioral health issues, a primary care provider can closely monitor your mental health and make recommendations should you need to seek the care of a counselor or psychiatrist, or if your mental state warrants more urgent evaluation.
Because untreated depression can push people toward drug or alcohol addiction, patients should seek medical attention if they exhibit any signs or symptoms of depression, or if someone close has brought up concerns of possible depression. Dr. Zen recommends identifying at least one or two individuals in your life that you can turn to as a good support system.
#5: Sexual Health. Your primary care provider can screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). All sexually active women younger than 25 years of age should be tested annually. It is also recommended that those 25 years and older be tested for STDs annually, especially with multiple sex partners or a new partner. Your primary care provider can counsel you on safe sex, STD prevention and birth control options, if desired. This information is not only useful to the patients themselves, but also for their partners in the event that the patient tests positive for an STD. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent potential long-term complications from an untreated STD. These can include infertility, pregnancy complications, increased risk of certain types of cancer, and increased risk of contracting another STD.
Why It’s Important to Have a Dedicated Primary Care Provider
When you establish care with a primary care provider (PCP) and visit them regularly as scheduled, your provider will be able to track your health over time and provide appropriate tests, screenings and immunizations. They can look at trends in your health and review your family history to assess your risk for certain diseases and conditions. Your provider will also be able to offer personalized solutions for your health concerns and help you identify ways to meet your health goals.
Dr. Zen says that when you have a relationship with a provider you see at every visit, it can provide benefits for years to come. This continuity in care encourages honesty, trust and open communication, which is the key to providing quality personal care.
“In the long run, we not only increase patient satisfaction with care but we also improve clinical outcomes at a lower cost and prevent unnecessary hospitalization. Most importantly, over time, that one-on-one relationship is key in reducing health disparities,” says Dr. Zen.
Whatever your age or stage of life, prevention is the best medicine. That's why it's important to see your primary care provider for age-appropriate screenings and vaccinations that can prevent disease.