A person in a doctor's office speaking with a physician.

May 9, 2020

Making up for lost time with annual checkups and preventive care

It’s time to get back to the basics of good health. Although we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians are taking precautions to safely resume preventive care, both in their offices and virtually, with telehealth audio and video options.

While you have been at home, and away from work or school, you may have let some healthy habits slip. It’s easy to do. The pandemic has turned our usual way of life upside down, and for many people, diet, exercise and mental health are suffering.

Family-medicine Physician Meghan Hunter, DO, with Memorial Hermann Medical Group encourages patients to “get back to the doctor. You may not have symptoms, but your numbers may have changed. Things like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI.”

Start Here: Checkups and Well Visits

Did you miss your annual checkup or well-woman exam during the stay-at-home order? “It’s not a problem to postpone your checkup by a few months, but don’t skip your annual physical,” Dr. Hunter says.

Seeing your physician regularly is an important part of staying well. Early detection is the one of the best defenses against illness. Having an annual checkup can help you and your physician identify health problems early, when treatments are most successful.

Your health care appointments may look different for a while, but providers are taking important steps to minimize your risk of infection so you can feel safe in the waiting room and exam room. “We are screening patients over the phone when they schedule an appointment, and again when they arrive in the office, and we are taking temperatures,” Dr. Hunter says.

Know Your Numbers

One of the best ways to maintain good health is to know your health statistics. Do you know your current blood pressure? What about your cholesterol levels? As you get back on track with good health, it is important to know whether your numbers are in the healthy range. Your primary care provider will assess your overall health, and if your numbers are in an unhealthy zone, you can work together to develop a plan to restore your good health.

Take Control of Your Diet

While daily schedules are disrupted, you may be tempted to graze on snacks instead of eating sensible meals. “People are home, and they often snack out of boredom,” Dr. Hunter says. “Stress eating is also very common these days.”

If your diet needs some help, a good place to start is sticking to a consistent meal schedule every day, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Healthy snacks can be part of your food plan, but be sure to keep an eye on portion size and limit the number of snacks you have each day.

Stay Active

Social distancing does not mean you can’t leave your home. “Get outside and enjoy the spring weather,” Dr. Hunter says.

It is safe to leave your home, and exercise is important to your health. If you have been sedentary during the stay-at-home order, then be sure to start out slowly. Activities like walking and biking are great options because you can easily maintain social distance and go at your own pace.

Be Mindful of Your Mental Health

“This is a really tough time with mental health issues,” Dr. Hunter says. “Everybody is under a great deal of stress, and those with underlying anxiety or depression are having those issues exacerbated.” If you are struggling with fear and nervousness about contracting the virus, or if you have lost your job, or if you feel unprepared to homeschool your children, know that you are not alone.

To help ease the stress of feeling isolated, Dr. Hunter advises finding ways to connect with family and friends. Pick up the phone, send a text or connect through video platforms. “Talking to other people is a stress reliever,” she says. If you feel that stress, anxiety or depression is more than you can handle, reach out to your primary care provider or a therapist.

COVID-19 has interrupted our lives, but it has also given us time to identify things in life that are meaningful. One of those meaningful parts of life is good health. As we begin to move back to “normal,” remember to take care of yourself and be proactive in seeking preventive care.

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