When you’re feeling good, it can be hard to see the value of visiting your primary care doctor. But that’s exactly when — and why — you should.
“In this complex health care world, it’s important to have a doctor you know and trust,” says James Kostek, DO, a primary care physician with Atlantic Health System. “Your primary care doctor is the captain of your health care team, giving context to your health concerns. And, when a health crisis hits, we catch problems early when they’re most treatable.” Studies show that annual wellness visits are the key to health and longevity, and people who regularly see their primary care doctor are generally healthier than those who don’t. Here’s why.
1. Your Medical History All in One Place
Primary care is your medical home for physical and mental well-being, and the first place you turn when you’re sick. Your doctor maintains your health record with family history, preventive screenings, labs and imaging, and clinical notes from your visits. This record travels with you in MyChart as a useful tool when searching for trends or underlying health issues.
2. Knowing Your Numbers
Interpreting lab tests and screenings isn’t always easy. Your primary care physician helps you understand important markers that can help prevent health problems. Some of the numbers you and your doctor should be tracking include blood sugar (glucose), blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight or body mass index (BMI).
3. Promoting Good Health
Annual wellness visits are an appointment to create or update your personalized prevention plan. Each year, your primary care doctor talks with you about recommended bloodwork, cancer screenings and vaccines that help avoid potential health problems — making sure you understand your results and helping you set goals that can delay — and even prevent — disease.
4. Managing Chronic Illnesses
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six in 10 Americans are living with at least one chronic health condition, like heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, and/or cancer. If you are one of them, you know the importance of having a primary care doctor. They educate you about your issues, monitor disease progression, advise on medications, manage your care team, and offer strategies to minimize the effects of your illness.
5. Access to Specialists
Having a relationship with your primary care doctor means when it comes time to see a specialist, your doctor can provide the appropriate referrals. They also make sure the specialist has access to your complete medical record, so your visit is productive. This way, you and your specialist can make informed decisions about your health.
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