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Exams: Diagnostic, preventative medicine key

February 28, 2013
By MIKE MUKLEWICZ - Times Leader Staff Writer , Times Leader

When it comes to your doctor and your yearly medical exam, don't ever be afraid to ask questions.

Gone are the days when people stayed away from the doctor until a medical condition became unbearable. Today, the key is to to talk with your doctor and have any concerns checked early, which saves grief, saves on the cost of medical care and helps all of us to lead healthier, happier lives.

It's recommended by health experts that an annual visit be had to your primary care physician. During that test, you should have a head-to-toe check up at least once a year, paying close attention to normal levels and readings.

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REGULAR?CHECKups, like physicals, dental cleanings and eye exams, are an important part of your health case regiment.

Many of these measurements, in combination, can be indicative of serious diseases and conditions. What may seem to be mild symptoms can oftentimes be caught in the early stages to reduce the extent and intensity of conditions. The basic check up consists of gathering vital signs - blood pressure, heart rate, pulse and temperature. Other parts of the exam may be general appearance observations, or the doctor paying attention to items such as dermatological problems, sensory motor skills, and cognition. If you stay with one doctor for consecutive years or visits, it allows that medical professional a more educated chance to notice these changes from year to year, or even changes that happen in smaller increments.

More tests are being suggested, though not completed by all doctors, as more research become available on a handful of new topics. Heart and lung exams are becoming more extensive, as both conditions become more of an epidemic in the midst of obesity and tobacco use.

The primary care doctor also now can handle many of the tests one used to have to go to the hospital for: an EKG, for example, can now be done at the doctor's office to assess heart health.

As we all begin to age, it vital to keep track of the problems going on with our bodies, so we can catch the slightest abnormality before it becomes a problem that gets out of hand, sometimes saving a life.

As cancer and heart disease top the charts as epidemics, it is critical that attention be paid to the prevention and screening for both problems. Obesity and health decision making initiatives have started to gain steam in school systems in the past decade, promoting physical activity and healthier food consumption. That won't be enough though, it's going to take a coordinated effort from society to curb these staggering trends. It all starts with one person though - yourself.



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