Fellow Santa Monicans, it’s easy to feel great on a daily basis in our urban paradise, which means you may not go see your doctor for years on end. While we at Doctors’ Orders hope that our fellow citizens always feel great, we do advise that you see your doctor periodically, even if you feel that you have nothing to talk to them about.
A doctor is part of our life from beginning until end. Children need to see a doctor every two to three months until the age of 2 and then annually. Parents are generally good about taking their children to see the doctor, but they are not nearly as compliant with their own health. After the age of 18, adults should see their doctor at least every one to two years depending on their age and health. Unfortunately, many of us do not take that recommendation seriously enough.
Why is it important to see your doctor on at least an annual basis? Your doctor will check your blood pressure and weight, do a physical examination, and ask questions to catch disease processes before you are even aware of them. Additionally, they will offer advice on various topics like diet and exercise that you can use to make your everyday life a healthier experience.
Children need exams on a regular basis to make sure they are up to date with their vaccination schedule. Just as important, adults need periodic visits to their doctor to remain up to date with the numerous screening test recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF). These screening tests help detect certain diseases early in their course to facilitate early management and treatment.
What screening tests should adults get? The USPTF recommends that women are screened with pap smear for human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the virus that causes cervical cancer, at least every three years starting at age 21. The USPTF also recommends biennial screening mammography for breast cancer for women starting at the age of 50. For both males and females, screening for colorectal cancer is recommended beginning at the age of 50, most commonly by colonoscopy. For smokers, the USPTF also recommends an ultrasound to screen for an abdominal aortic aneurysm at least once after the age of 65. These are just a few of the major screening tests that physicians keep track of at your periodic visit. Additionally, if you have a family history of certain diseases, these recommendations may change.
A periodic visit to the doctor also allows physicians to check blood tests for your cholesterol and blood sugar to make sure that you are not developing hypercholesterolemia or diabetes.
Santa Monicans, let’s make a point to visit our doctor, so that we can live long and healthy lives and enjoy this beautiful beach community for as long as possible!
Sion Roy and Kathleen Ruchalski are a husband and wife physician duo who live in Santa Monica. Dr. Roy is a cardiology fellow and Dr. Ruchalski is a radiology resident at UCLA. Please e-mail them at email@example.com with comments and questions. The opinions in this column are not intended as individual medical advice, treatment or diagnosis, as only your doctor knows you well enough to do that.