Living Well: Complete annual health checks promote better health | CraigDailyPress.com

Living Well: Complete annual health checks promote better health

Memorial Regional Health/For Craig Press

When your birthday rolls around this year, plan to do more than celebrate. Set an appointment for an annual exam and complete annual health checks and bloodwork. Consider it a birthday gift to yourself, one that just might have you blowing out candles longer than you would have otherwise.

"Taking preventive measures is the same as performing basic maintenance on your vehicles. It's easier to put air in your tire when it's low, rather than being stuck along the roadside with a blown tire. In other words, it's easier to address and correct a slightly high blood pressure now, rather than waiting years later, when you are stranded by long-term damage and complications," said Kelsie Bond, PA-C, with Memorial Regional Health.

Annual exam as yearly maintenance

Getting an annual exam, which often includes annual lab work, helps catch diseases before symptoms are overwhelming. Often, by changing lifestyle habits or taking needed medication, you can manage diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, without too much impact on your life.

Women's health experts at the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommend women get regular screening tests to protect themselves against cancer and other diseases. These screens include mammograms and pap smears. Screening tests are often performed during an annual exam.

"I have had several instances of women getting a screening test who didn't want to do it, and low and behold, we found something serious," said Dr. Scott Ellis, OB/GYN with Memorial Regional Health.

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Early detection not only saves lives, but also saves hassle, worry and expense. When caught early, pre-cancerous cells, or lesions, in women can often be removed at a clinic or with minor surgery, rather than having to go to the hospital to receive a hysterectomy or cancer treatments.

"Screening tests are not always pleasant, but they make a huge difference on health outcomes," Ellis said.

While children don't tend to develop chronic illnesses, it's important to get an annual well child check to ensure your child is growing and developing as he or she should. Early on, well child exams are especially important to pinpoint developmental delays and resolve them as soon as possible.

Seeing your child every year helps your provider gain a sense of what's normal for him or her, making it easier to catch something that is off. For example, your provider can compare your child's height, weight and BMI (body mass index) to past numbers to make sure they are in line with expectations. Also, don't be tempted to take a pass on getting your teenagers in for a well visit, as a lot happens during adolescence.

"It's important for kids to receive a well child check every year. It's a great time to ask questions and raise any concerns you might have about their physical health, behavior and eating and sleeping habits," said Kevin Monahan, CHA/PA-C, Pediatrics, with Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic.

Annual lab work for peace of mind

Getting blood work done regularly helps you rest assured that a disease is not creeping up on you, especially as you age. If you get bloodwork yearly, it's easy to track changes over time.

"I look at lab values as an important piece of the puzzle to help prevent health-related problems," Bond said.

If your birthday is coming soon, it's the perfect time to take advantage of health checks and reduced cost blood work at Memorial Regional Health. The health system is offering blood draws every day during March and health checks, including blood pressure checks and vouchers for body composition scans, at the health fair April 14 at the CNCC campus.

MRH offered lab tests

Blood cell count ($10): Measures white, red and platelets in blood; screens for abnormalities.

Blood chemistry ($25): Measures kidney, liver and thyroid function, as well as glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, ferritin and overall nutritional status.

Chlamydia/gonorrhea ($50): Urine screen for two sexually-transmitted diseases.

Hemoglobin A1c ($20): Measures blood sugar (glucose) levels over past 3 months to detect for diabetes.

Hep C ($20): Screens for a past or current infection of the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

HIV ($30): Screens for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); all adults should be screened at least once.

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) ($10): Gives level of blood protein associated with prostate cancer; men only.

Testosterone ($40): Total testosterone test to check for deficiency; men only.

Vitamin B12 ($20): Gives levels of this important essential vitamin for healthy nerves and blood cells.

Vitamin D ($40): Gives levels of this important essential vitamin for healthy bones, immune system, brain and nervous system.

MRH March into Health

What: Blood draws

When: 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday through March 30; weekends by appointment

Where: The Memorial Hospital lab, 750 Hospital Loop

Information: 970-826-3122