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From left to right, Dr. Scott Nelson, Dr. John "Bull" Durham, Rose, and Dr. Lee Zuckerman sit together in a hospital in Port au Prince, Haiti, before the three doctors worked together with Haitian medical professionals to remove a tumor the size of a cantaloupe from Rose's forearm.

Spring is here, and most of us are busy cleaning out the cobwebs, washing windows and getting ready for long, warm summer days. One of the most important items to add to your spring checklist is to get an annual physical and wellness exam.

Routine preventive care helps you manage and maintain your health and can help you avoid potentially serious health conditions and/or obtain early diagnosis and treatment. Generally, the sooner your doctor can identify and treat a medical condition, the better the outcome.

The Affordable Care Act helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring health plans to cover preventive services and by eliminating cost-sharing for those services.

Well-woman and well-man physician visits and exams and other preventive screenings, such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer and colorectal cancer are generally covered. Coverage is based on your age and other health factors and should be confirmed before scheduling an appointment.

It is important to understand the difference between preventive care and diagnostic care. Preventive care includes routine well exams, screenings and immunizations intended to prevent or avoid illness or other health problems. Diagnostic care includes care or treatment when you have symptoms or risk factors and your doctor wants to diagnose them.

One of the best ways to keep track of when you need to see your healthcare providers is to schedule your appointments during your birthday month or during the spring when you are focused on spring cleaning.

Not sure what needs to be “checked out”? Here is a list for you and your healthcare providers to discuss at your annual visit:

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Yearly: Head-to-toe exam; fasting blood sugar; blood pressure; cholesterol and lipids; height/weight/body mass index; dental, hearing and eye exams; skin exam; urine test to check for proteins (diabetes). It is recommended that women have annual pelvic exams and all persons over the age of 55 do a fecal occult test to check for colorectal cancer.

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As we get older: Colorectal cancer screenings every five to 10 years starting at age 50; mammograms (women) every year after the age of 45; and other screenings based on risk factors and health history.

Vaccines as needed: Flu vaccine yearly; Shingles vaccine at age 60; Pneumonia vaccine as recommended by your provider; Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine every 10 years.

Other items to discuss at your annual wellness and preventive health exam: Current medications and supplements; balance and falling concerns; sleep patterns; physical activity and exercise; changes in bowel and bladder; depression or feelings of sadness; tobacco and alcohol use; and sexually transmitted diseases.

Need a primary care provider? Flagstaff’s NACA, Inc. – Native Americans for Community Action – is accepting new patients of all ages and from all cultures. The NACA Family Health Center is dedicated to providing quality healthcare to the Native and non-Native populations of Flagstaff and surrounding areas.

NACA, Inc. accepts most private insurances as well as Medicare and Medicaid and offers a sliding-fee scale to those who qualify. 

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Is there a health topic you would like to know more about? Contact Starla S. Collins, health writer, life & success coach and public relations expert, at StarlaSCollins@gmail.com.

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