As the U.S. health care system has evolved, people have had to take a more active role in the care they and their loved ones receive. Fortunately, taking more responsibility for understanding your care and communicating with your doctor can help extend your healthy years.
Preventive medicine is one area of health care in which all consumers can exercise more responsibility and control. Getting regular screening tests for common health problems is a simple and effective first step.
Screening tests can give you and your doctor the information needed to identify health risks and take preventive measures before they become more serious problems. Screening tests include self-checks, clinical exams, non-laboratory tests (such as imaging tests), and laboratory tests. The focus here is on laboratory screening tests.
Getting routine tests performed even though you have no symptoms can help detect problems early and help you benefit from easier and more effective treatment. It can sometimes even prevent disease. It's easy to take these tests for granted, but their power to keep you healthier longer should not be underestimated.
For example, if you are at-risk for type-2 diabetes, catching the disease in its early stages may help you prevent or manage the condition with diet and exercise alone. Without early detection by a routine screening test, you could miss the opportunity to prevent diabetes, which could result in serious complications and a need for more intensive diabetes management.
To get the maximum benefit from preventive medicine, you should approach wellness visits prepared to discuss your health outlook and family and medical history with your health care provider. The decision whether to have certain screening tests performed will depend on your own risk tolerance. Whether to take advantage of laboratory screening is ultimately your decision, but starting from a base of health knowledge will help you communicate with your care provider about what's best for you.