Annual Wellness Visits can save your life

Men, if you could do something today that often costs nothing, takes very little time and could save your life 10 or 20 years from now, would you do it? Would you ask someone you love to do it? The answer is pretty obvious – and yet, many men don’t do it. That “something” is an in-depth conversation with your doctor known as an Annual Wellness Visit – and most insurances, including Medicare, cover it 100%.

A wellness visit isn’t quite the same thing as an annual physical. Where a physical is a snapshot of your health at the current moment, a wellness visit takes the mile-high, long view complete with road map. There has been a lot of buzz about how important wellness visits are for older, Medicare patients – but they are equally important for young people, even those who are still in their 20s.

 “If you look at statistics for healthcare across the United States, we’re still not performing well,” says Grover C. Dils, M.D., primary care physician with StayWell Clinic in Bowling Green. “The incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers – some of it’s based on our lifestyle and foods we’re eating. I think if you start intervening in people who are already above a Body Mass Index of 25 in their 20s or even for some in their teens, you can help program them into a healthy lifestyle. We can do that with annual wellness visits.”

Why should men care about their health when they are just starting out in life? Most men are busy with new careers, new families and just getting through the day without worrying about a doctor’s appointment they don’t have time for. But making time for a wellness visit now – and establishing an honest relationship with a doctor – can save a lot of literal heartache later. The stage for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, is set when people are young and developing unhealthy habits.

“I tell men to think of their health like a savings account,” Dr. Dils says. “Working with your doctor while you’re young to identify health risks and develop a healthy lifestyle makes a deposit into that savings account that can really pay off when you are older. You’ll have less pain, better mental focus, and more energy after a lifetime of healthy living than if you wait to fix your lifestyle after you’ve developed chronic illness.”

An Annual Wellness Visit is where you and your doctor can focus on your overall well-being, keeping you healthy and preventing or detecting disease. What happens during your visit may vary depending on your age, health status and what your insurance will pay for. Your doctor may:

  • Talk about your personal medical history and your family’s medical history
  • Give you a simple hearing test
  • Talk about feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Ask you questions about your lifestyle, daily routine, and memory
  • Create a schedule to make sure you receive the preventive care you need
  • Check your weight, height, blood pressure, and calculate your BMI
  • Talk about who should make decisions about your healthcare if you become unable to speak for yourself

As part of your visit, your doctor will create a personalized prevention plan that is clear, easy to follow and unique to you. The plan can help you:

  • Lower your healthcare costs
  • Learn how to make small changes in your lifestyle to keep you healthy
  • Detect diseases early, before they become a problem
  • Review your medical conditions and current list of medications, vitamins and supplements
  • Review preventive care and see if you are up-to-date on your vaccines

When you make an appointment for your wellness visit, be sure to bring along the names of all your healthcare providers, a list of all medications you take – including vitamins and supplements, and a copy of your Living Will if you have one. Another good thing to bring is a list of questions you might have. You might even bring someone with you to help you remember what to ask and to remember what the doctor tells you. Your doctor is on your team and can be both coach and cheerleader as you tackle a healthier lifestyle.

To schedule an appointment for an Annual Wellness Visit with Dr. Dils at StayWell Clinic, call 270-721-7166. To learn more about Annual Wellness Visits and other Med Center Health primary care locations throughout Southcentral Kentucky, visit MedCenterHealth.org/AWV.

Dr. Dils examining an elderly male patient.