Take Control of Your Health

Set the stage for protecting your health in 2021 with preventive healthcare.

By Laurie Yarnell / Adobe Stock photo
As seen in the February 2021 Issue of Advancing Care.

The New Year is a great time to launch healthy, new habits.
One of the best ways to do that is to be proactive about your health and have the medically recommended screenings, tests and immunizations appropriate to your age, gender and family history. On pages 5-6, you’ll find a handy chart for these preventive health measures for every stage of life.

“These screening recommendations are supported by a high-level of scientific research and have been proven to be useful,” says Neil W. Schluger, MD, Director, Department of Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of WMCHealth. “Many serious conditions can be prevented or improved with health screenings — and that’s good news.”
Below, Dr. Schluger, and two other WMCHealth physicians weigh in on this important topic.

Get Screened

“Rather than waiting for a disease to progress, the strategy behind screenings is to catch the disease or condition in its early stages, when it’s more amenable to treatments and a complete recovery,” says J. Keith Festa, MD, a family physician and Associate Director of Medical Affairs at MidHudson Regional Hospital, a member of WMCHealth.

Brian Fitzpatrick, MD, an internal medicine specialist with Hudson Valley Medical Associates, part of the Bon Secours Medical Group, a member of WMCHealth, concurs. “You may think having a screening is inconvenient,” he adds, “but it’s much more inconvenient to find you have colon cancer.”
But, if you feel healthy, are at a good weight and exercise regularly, do you still need screenings and tests? Absolutely. “It’s great to feel healthy and we want to keep you that way,” says Dr. Fitzpatrick.

“If you’re asymptomatic, we don’t want you to become symptomatic,” adds Dr. Festa. “Unfortunately, by the time you have symptoms with most diseases, they are much more advanced, and the treatments needed are usually more aggressive. And sometimes it can just be too late.”

Dr. Schluger emphasizes that it is especially important for the older population to be “meticulous about their annual vaccinations, as well as screenings for colon cancer, and lung cancer, for those with a history of smoking.” The majority of screenings are covered by Medicare, notes Dr. Schluger.

Start with a Physical

If you’ve been a bit lax in taking control of your health and don’t know where to begin, schedule an annual exam with your physician. “Get a complete physical,” urges Dr. Festa. “Your doctor will then help you decide which tests need to be done and when.” Bring a list of questions and notes about any symptoms you may be experiencing, no matter how small, advises Dr. Fitzpatrick. “The more actively involved you are in your own care, the better the outcome.” Finally, be sure to follow through on any recommendations.

Don’t Delay Care

According to all three doctors, there is no reason to be hesitant about medical care during the pandemic. “The medical community is taking strict precautions to keep patients safe. It can be far more problematic to delay necessary care,” says Dr. Festa. Dr. Fitzpatrick adds, “Just because the pandemic is happening doesn’t mean other health problems stop happening.”


Lower Your Risk of Viral Infection in 2021

During the pandemic, plus cold and flu season, it’s important to:

. Wear a mask
. Wash hands/use hand sanitizer frequently
. Refrain from touching face or eyes
. Limit in-person interaction with non-household members and crowds
. Maintain social distance
(6 feet) from others
. Quarantine if exposed
. Call your doctor if you have a cough, fever, loss of smell and/or taste, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea