A patient discussing health screenings results with their primary care provider.
Healthy Living

What Types of Health Screenings Should I Have with My Primary Care Provider?

Sep 18 2020

Did you know having a primary care provider and regular checkups lowers your odds of dying early by around 19%? Your primary care provider is your initial point of care. They are the first to see early warning signs of disease or early symptoms of a condition. In turn, your chances of preventing and treating illnesses improve.

Among the most important tools in a primary care provider’s bag of tricks are health screenings. These tests provide valuable information about the state of a patient’s health. When you see your primary care provider, you should expect to get one or more of these five important health screenings.

Regular weight checks

You know how you step on the scale before every medical appointment? There’s a good reason for that. This is an essential screening tool that tells your primary care provider about your overall health and possible risk factors for diseases.

If you’ve lost weight suddenly without trying, it could be a sign of a serious condition like:

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Depression

Similarly, if you’re overweight, you’re at higher risk of developing certain conditions, such as:

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a natural material that your body makes. It helps with digesting food and making hormones. But when too much of it builds up, it raises your chances of developing heart disease.

A simple blood test is all you need to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels. In general, your primary care provider will probably check your cholesterol first in your 20s and then every four to six years afterward. If you’re at risk of having high cholesterol, you might need these tests more often.

When you get screened, your primary care provider will go over the results with you. The results always give you four numbers:

  • LDL cholesterol, the artery-blocking “bad” kind that you want to keep as low as possible
  • HDL cholesterol, which should be a higher number because this “good” cholesterol clears LDL out of your arteries
  • Triglycerides, a kind of fat, that raises your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack
  • Total cholesterol, which is the measure of all three

Blood pressure

You could have high blood pressure and not have any symptoms to warn you. That’s why your primary care provider checks your blood pressure during each routine visit.

When you have high blood pressure, your body has to work harder to pump your blood. If LDL cholesterol starts building up inside the walls of your blood vessels, the insides of these vessels become smaller, which then raises your blood pressure even more.

The longer you live with untreated high blood pressure, the more damage it can do to your heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure can lead to problems with your heart rate and to stroke and heart attack.

Blood sugar

High blood sugar is a warning sign too. Left untreated, it can put you at risk for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

You could have high blood sugar and never know it until you get very sick. Your primary care provider can check your blood sugar by ordering a blood test.

Skin checks

Every day, roughly 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer. This data underlines the importance of keeping a watchful eye on your skin.

Your primary care provider may do skin checks to monitor your skin health. If anything shows up, they can refer you to a skin specialist for care.

Doing screenings like these can help your primary care provider spot health problems early on. This then increases your chances of preventing disease or treating conditions before they start impacting your health.

Looking for a new primary care provider? Use our Find a Doctor tool to get started!

Learn more about the primary care services we offer at Mercy Health.

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