From millennials to healthy moms with kids to middle aged guys who’ve never had a cold, we’ve heard it before: “Why do I need a primary care physician—I’m never sick!”
Given the fact that most health insurance plans cover one primary care visit per year, it certainly makes sense to take advantage of this “health privilege,” but it’s also important to understand why you need a primary care physician in the first place.
What difference does primary care make?
Numerous studies have shown the widespread benefits of primary care services. People who receive primary care have fewer preventable emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Those who have a primary care physician—which could be with a family medicine doctor or an internal medicine provider—also tend to have a stronger bond of trust with their doctor. Therefore when it comes to medical treatment, they’re more likely to follow doctor’s orders, meaning they’re also more likely to get better, and get better faster. And in many cases, particularly in underserved communities, primary care access goes hand-in-hand with better:
- Blood pressure control
- Dental health
- Health outcomes
- Immunization compliance
- Quality of life
…and even reduced mortality rates.
“What we’re encouraging you to do is establish a long-term relationship with a primary care physician whom you know and trust, and who gets to know your medical history, someone who oversees all of your medical care and has an eye on any health changes,” says Sarai Martinez-Suazo, MD, a primary care provider at Main Line Health. “We’re also that person who’s just here for you when you have questions about your body and any changes in the way you feel as well as any concerns you might have about your health as you age. Also, as primary care physicians, we’re often able to detect issues before they turn into larger problems so you can get treated appropriately, efficiently, and cost-effectively.”
Primary care physicians commonly detect and treat conditions such as:
- Blood glucose (low/high “sugar”) issues (borderline diabetes/diabetes)
- Bronchitis, respiratory infections
- Ear/sinus infections
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Headaches, migraines
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Thyroid malfunctioning
In many cases, when it comes to management of health conditions, patients can save valuable time, energy and resources—instead of going from one specialist to another—by starting with their primary care provider for a baseline assessment.
Why men need a primary care physician
From “I don’t like doctors,” to “no news is good news,” men are notorious for avoiding the doctor. It’s no wonder American men live an average of five years less than women, and the years they do live tend to be less healthy ones.
f you’re in the “Why do I need a primary care physician—I’m never sick” camp, it’s time to book your appointment! Here are some of the reasons why men need a primary care physician:
In your 30s
- Blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI) check
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening
- Hepatitis screening
- Discussion about tobacco use and intervention, if needed
- Screening for anxiety and depression
Your doctor will also check in with you regarding use of alcohol and other lifestyle habits and behaviors.
In your 40s
- Screening for cardiovascular disease
- Screening for diabetes
- Keeping an eye on weight, blood pressure, cholesterol
- Ongoing counseling about physical activity, healthy lifestyle and nutrition
- Behavioral health evaluation (e.g., male midlife depression is common), including alcohol use assessment
In your 50s
In your 50s, you’ll continue getting all the usual screenings and health checks along with prostate and colorectal cancer screenings. It’s also especially important to keep your weight in check as well as blood pressure and cholesterol. All of these can factor into erectile dysfunction (ED), which affects about 30 million American men, and can also put you at high risk for heart disease, still the leading cause of death for men in the United States.
Did you know—and wouldn’t you want to? Erectile dysfunction is linked to heart disease. It may also indicate high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and obesity.
In your 60s, 70s and beyond
Your primary care physician will continue to provide preventive screening while also talking to you about maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle and attitude to help protect your body as well as your mind since dementia can sometimes show up during these decades. You can also talk to your doctor about osteoarthritis and any testing you might need or dietary considerations and supplementation. In general, men in these later years are more compliant about seeing the doctor than men in their younger years.
Why women need primary care and OB/GYN
Busy moms are another segment of the population that skip primary care services because women often figure that having a gynecologist is sufficient. Especially if they’re doing all the right things, like exercising, eating relatively well, and no mysterious symptoms to worry about…so why spend the time going to a doctor’s appointment you don’t really need? But while gynecological care is still important, it’s not everything, especially as you get older. Having a primary care physician who oversees all aspects of your medical care gives you an opportunity to ask other kinds of health questions that might have crossed your mind like: Are these stress headaches normal? What about all this sneezing since I got this new dog—could it be allergies? Should I be worried about the mole on my back?
“Annual appointments are a good chance for you to ask your doctor these kinds of questions that aren’t necessarily pressing health issues,” says Dr. Martinez-Suazo. “At the same time, we want women to value this primary care relationship as much as the relationship with the gynecologist.”
Your visit is a good opportunity for your doctor to ask questions of you as well, such as symptoms, warning signs, or other notable items in your personal or family health history they’ll want to talk to you about, including things you may not have thought of.
So start the new year off right by making an appointment with a Main Line Health primary care physician. Looking to be matched with a primary care doctor whose values match yours? Use our provide match tool on myprimary.org. You can also browse more Main Line Health primary care providers.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.