Practising Preventive Care
Making good lifestyle choices is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. The choices you make can help you feel better now and prevent health problems later.
You should see your doctor regularly for preventive health care. This can help find problems early or prevent health problems before they occur. Preventive health care includes examination and screening tests that look for problems even before you are sick.
It also includes immunizations, which help to prevent some diseases. There are some problems that are more likely to cause sickness at certain times of your life. For this reason, preventive care is based on a person's age and risk factors.
You and your doctor can work together to plan how you can have a healthy lifestyle, decrease your risk factors, and prevent disease.
Together, you can watch for signs of problems that are common in women in your age group. If problems are found early, they may be easier to treat and less likely to pose serious risks to your health.
Screening detects health problems in people who do not have symptoms. Questions about your health, a physical examination, and certain tests are all part of routine screening to look for problems that often occur in your age group.
During your visit, your doctor may ask you questions about your lifestyle and health:
• Health history
• Family's health history
• Exercise habits
• Use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
• Sexual habits
• Prescribed or over-the-counter medications
It is important to tell your doctor about all aspects of your lifestyle and health. Complete and honest answers help your doctor give the best advice for your health needs.
During the physical examination, your doctor may check your height, weight, and blood pressure. He or she also may perform a breast and a pelvic exam.
If you are 21 years of age or older, you should have a Pap test. It is done to check for abnormal cells in the cervix. If you are younger than 21 years, a Pap test should be done about three years after you first had sex.
There are also other tests that your doctor may suggest. Some tests are recommended for all women. Others are suggested for women in certain age groups.
Where you live, your lifestyle, and your personal and family medical history also play a role in the type of health care you may need.
Immunisations, or vaccines, can offer protection against diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. Some are a routine part of preventive care and others are offered to those at risk.
Once your doctor has talked with you and completed any examination or tests that were needed, he or she may suggest changes in your lifestyle. Good lifestyle choices and habits promote good health for years to come. Here are some basics:
• Eat a well-balanced diet.
• Lower the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet.
• Keep your weight at a level that is good for your height.
• Exercise for at least 30–60 minutes on most or all days of the week.
• Do not smoke cigarettes.
• Do not use drugs.
• If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
• Wear sunscreen and avoid excess sun exposure to help prevent skin cancer.
• Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a vehicle.
• Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, vitamins, or supplements you may take.
• Do a breast self-exam once a month
• Seek help if you feel sadness that affects your daily life.
• See a dentist regularly to be sure your teeth are healthy.
• Have regular vision exams.
If you have any health concerns, talk to your doctor about them. In many cases there are treatments that can help.
It is up to you to make healthy choices. Work with your doctor to ensure you have all the tests and immunisations that are needed for your age group and risk factors. Practising preventive care now can help keep you healthy for years to come.