What is preventive health care?

Many people only visit their doctor when they have a noticeable symptom or health problem. For many conditions and diseases, this means the treatment will not be as effective as it would have been earlier.

Diagnosing a noticeable symptom is known as diagnostic medical care. This type of health care treats existing problems and examines new symptoms.

Rather than wait for a health issue to arise, the best course of action is to see a doctor regularly for screenings and checkups to catch any problems that are not noticeable. This is known as preventive health care. Preventive health care allows you to avoid future health issues before they happen by taking the necessary precautions. These precautions consist of preventive care from health providers, such as screenings, vaccinations and checkups, and preventive health care that you can do yourself, such as exercising regularly and having a balanced diet.

What is the difference between diagnostic and preventive health care services?

The health care you receive can be either diagnostic or preventive. You need to know the difference between them because many preventive services are free with insurance coverage, whereas diagnostic services are not. The Affordable Care Act allowed certain preventive services to become free of charge, which means your health insurance must cover the service without charging you a copayment or co-insurance, even if you have not met your deductible.

It can often be the case that a service someone thought was preventive, and therefore free, was in fact not considered preventive by the insurance company, resulting in a medical claim. Just remember the rules; preventive health services are for before you feel sick. These services can include immunizations, screenings and certain medications. Diagnostic health services are things that assist your doctor in understanding your symptoms so your illness can be diagnosed. Diagnostic care is for when you have symptoms or a known health issue.

Unfortunately, sometimes the service can be preventive under some circumstances and diagnostic under others. Here are two examples:

  • Mammogram. This breast cancer screening is preventive if you have no symptoms but it is diagnostic if you have symptoms, such as a lump. If an abnormal finding is discovered during a preventive screening and it is later discovered to be normal, then a future screening will be considered preventive. If an abnormal discovery is found during a preventive mammography and is later confirmed to be abnormal, then future screenings will be considered diagnostic. In that case, any deductible, copay or co-insurance will be applied.
  • Colonoscopy. This endoscopic bowel examination is a preventive screening if you have no symptoms but it is diagnostic if you have symptoms, such as bleeding or irregularity. If a polyp is found and removed during a preventive screening, then the removal of the polyp and any associated lab tests performed at the same time are considered to be preventive. If a polyp is removed during a preventive colonoscopy, then any future screenings will be considered diagnostic.

What types of preventive health care services are available?

Preventive health care services can range from screenings and lab tests to looking at your health history and diet record. Even if you feel great, you should have regular checkups to make sure you do not have any unnoticeable health problems and to prevent future health issues occurring. These visits to your health care provider can include updating vaccinations, discussing things like alcohol abuse or your medication and screenings for diseases like diabetes and cancer.

There are various types of preventive screenings to detect diseases and conditions. If you fall into a certain category dependent on factors like your age and lifestyle choices, then you may find some screenings are more appropriate than others. Preventive screenings available from health care providers include the following:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening. If you are between 65 and 75 years of age or if you have ever smoked, then you should be screened for aneurysm detection. Genetics, old age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease can all lead to having an aneurysm. Because aneurysms usually grow slowly without displaying any symptoms, it is very important to get yourself checked out. Aneurysms cancause bleeding inside the body, which can lead to death.
  • Hepatitis C screening. If your birthday falls between 1945 and 1965 or if you have ever used needles for self-injection, then you should have a screening for this serious liver disease. If you have HIV or AIDS or if you received an organ transplant or blood transfusion before 1992, then it is also highly recommended you have a screening.Many people with hepatitis C live normally for years without feeling ill, but the virus still causes liver damage even when you do not have any symptoms. Have a blood test to be sure you are as healthy as you feel.
  • Colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is especially prevalent in people older than 50 years of age but screening can help find it early, so it is easier to treat or it can be prevented entirely.

Another aspect of preventive health care is getting treatment as soon as possible when you begin to feel unwell. The sooner you get yourself checked out, the easier it is for the problem to be solved. Many diseases that are caught early can be dealt with appropriately and result in the restoration of health. The longer you leave a noticeable health problem, the worse it is likely to get and the more difficult it may be to treat. If you recognize any abnormal changes in your body, then it is vital you get yourself checked out by a health care professional to prevent further risks and complications. Abnormal changes could be finding a lump on your body, losing excessive weight unexpectedly or finding blood in your stools.

What types of preventive health care can you do yourself?

Preventive health care is not just about having regular checkups and dealing with symptoms early on. You can make many lifestyle choices to avoid having any health problems in the first place. Doing regular exercise, being on the right diet and avoiding harmful substances is sometimes all it takes to maintain good health.

In the fast-paced modern world, it is often easy to forget you need to take time out to look after yourself, but the more care you take on a daily basis, the healthier and happier you will be. Below are some recommended preventive health care suggestions you can implement yourself:

Do not smoke or use tobacco. Tobacco use is linked to several forms of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, lung, throat, pancreas, larynx, bladder, kidney and cervix. It is, therefore, best to give up smoking. Secondhand tobacco smoke can also be harmful, so you should avoid smoky environments.

Exercise. Do some form of physical activity for at least two and a half hours each week. Physical exercise helps you to lose weight and it may reduce the risk of things like breast cancer and colon cancer.

Eat healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. Avoid excessive added salt and sugar. Eating too much salt can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and chronic kidney disease. Too much sugar in food and drinks can make it hard to control your weight. Being overweight can increases a person’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Added sugars can also cause Metabolic Syndrome, liver disease and even cancer.

Drink alcohol in moderation. Excessive alcohol use is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States, so be careful of how much you drink. The recommended allowances are no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. Chronic drinking can cause liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, ulcers, malnourishment, osteoporosis, heart disease, immune system dysfunction and brain damage.

Do not use illegal drugs. Some illegal drugs are more dangerous than others. The quantity of drugs you take and how regularly they are taken also makes a difference to how serious the associated health problems are. Stimulant drugs, like amphetamines, can cause anxiety and panic attacks, hallucinogenic drugs can lead to dangerous behavior and brain damage and sedative drugs, like heroin, can lead to fatalities. Illegal drugs can also affect your mental health.

Practice safe sex. Unsafe sex can cause various sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, herpes, syphilis and HIV and AIDS.

It is always best to nip health problems in the bud before they get worse, which is why preventive health care is so important. By regularly visiting your doctor, eating healthily and exercising regularly you have a greater chance of avoiding future health issues. That means you will be healthier and happier, which is good for you and your loved ones.

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