Some of us may be skipping our annual physicals. And our skin exam. Perhaps the dentist, too. Maybe we don’t think we need it this year, with everything going on. Or maybe we’re too spooked by the possibility of contracting COVID-19 to visit the doctor’s office.
Overall, it is true that Americans are often in excellent health, particularly when compared to eras past. But as Mark Zeitzer, the Portland-based medical director for acute-care services at ZOOM+Care, explains, that’s because we’ve done a great job with preventive health from annual flu shots to cancer screenings.
“Preventive care greatly improves life expectancy, and it has gotten us to where we are today with a population that’s typically in great health,” he says. “Over the last 10-20 years, we’ve seen the survival rates of cancer go up thanks to early detection,” he says. As another example, flu shots keep us from catching the flu, which in turn helps avoid life-threatening complications like pneumonia.
Ignoring worrying symptoms can lead to worst-case scenarios. “We’ve seen patients who started to experience abdominal swelling in February, but by the time they decide to see a doctor in late summer, their health has deteriorated and they have cancer of the bowel or liver,” Zeitzer says.
Staying on top of your health can help you stay out of the hospital. Preventive medicine can head off health complications that combine with the virus that causes COVID-19 to cause more serious threats to health. Zeitzer points out that a growing body of evidence shows severe COVID-related symptoms are worse in certain populations — such as those diagnosed with diabetes or heart conditions.
Proactively addressing a chronic illness can better your chances of managing COVID-19 and an underlying, undiagnosed risk factor.
“Get screening tests done,” Zeitzer recommends. If you’re nervous, call the