Prevention exams are the best way to identify medical conditions in their earliest stages, when treatment is typically the most effective and less costly. These exams, also called annual physicals, can help prevent minor issues from becoming serious by providing insights about early disease risk and proactive steps you can take to avoid chronic conditions.
You’ll get the most from a prevention exam when you work with a primary care provider you trust. Karl Trippe, MD, and the staff at Waco Primary Care in Waco, Texas, help patients remain as healthy as possible by evaluating their risk of developing various diseases and by intervening early when a diagnosis is made.
In this blog, Dr. Trippe explains five common conditions that can be identified during these types of visits and how early intervention can make a difference.
1. High blood pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease in which the movement of blood through the arteries occurs with more pressure, or force, than normal. The longer you live with untreated high blood pressure, the more damage your blood vessels experience. Living with high blood pressure makes you more likely to experience heart disease and stroke, two conditions that rank as the leading causes of death in the United States.
Since high blood pressure typically doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms in its earliest stages, having your blood pressure checked is one of the best ways to identify this condition early. And the earlier you get a diagnosis, the earlier you can begin treatment, such as lifestyle changes and medications. This, in turn, could help you avoid prolonged damage to your arteries and other potentially life-threatening complications.
Obesity is a condition in which you carry too much body weight. In addition to changing your appearance, being obese can increase your risk for many serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some types of cancer.
A diagnosis of obesity is based on a measurement of your body mass index (BMI), a number that equals your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. While a normal BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9, a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 is identified as overweight, and a score of 30.0 or above is considered obese. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.
Identifying your risk for obesity early minimizes the amount of time that extra weight is straining your heart and exerting extra stress on your joints. You can reduce the effect of obesity on your health by losing just 5-10% of your body weight.
Prevention exams can often identify warning signs of some types of cancer. Your risk for certain types of cancer varies depending on your gender and age. The early diagnosis of all types of cancer gives you the best chance for successful treatment and improved outcomes.
A visual examination can reveal signs of suspicious moles related to skin cancer. If you’re a female, you may have a routine pelvic exam, pap test, breast exam, and/or mammogram to identify your risk for cervical and breast cancer. Males are usually screened for prostate cancer with a digital rectal examination. Additional blood tests, screening procedures, or evaluations are advised if you have symptoms associated with a cancer diagnosis.
4. Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that is also referred to as atherosclerosis, peripheral vascular disease, or hardening of the arteries. This disorder occurs when plaque narrows or blocks the arteries that carry blood from your heart to your arms and legs. PAD can also affect the arteries that nourish your kidneys, head, and gastrointestinal tract.
During a prevention exam, Dr. Trippe determines your risk for PAD with the in-office TM-FLOW® System test, a device that measures and assesses vascular function. Identifying early heart or circulation issues can allow you to initiate lifestyle changes or medical treatments to restore healthy blood flow.
Prevention exams are a valuable opportunity to identify signs of depression, a condition in which only one-third of those affected with severe depression seek professional treatment. If you demonstrate signs of depression or have a family history of the condition, a depression test may be administered to determine your need for mental health services.
Getting an appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression can help you function normally and improve your quality of life. It can also lead to the identification of the source of your depression. This can include the diagnosis of physical illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, for which depression can occur as a symptom.