Dr. Allen Perkins, chair of the University of South Alabama’s Department of Family Medicine and a family medicine physician with USA Physicians Group, said as a patient, you should do two easy things to improve the care you receive -- know your family medical history and follow recommended preventive screenings.
According to Dr. Perkins, knowing your family history is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
“Your family medical history enables your physician to provide better care for you and can help identify whether you have a higher risk for certain diseases,” he said. “It can also help your physician recommend actions for reducing your personal risk of disease.”
Once you know what your genetic risks are, have a discussion with your physician about what to do to minimize the impact of illnesses that run in your family.
Dr. Perkins recommends using the Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" (https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/home.action), a tool that makes it easy for you to record your family health history, which you can share with family members or send to your medical home.
In addition to knowing your family medical history, Dr. Perkins also recommends staying on top of necessary preventive screenings. According to Dr. Perkins, there are certain things that – if detected early – can make a difference in people living longer and healthier lives. Preventive screenings are medical tests that look for diseases before they are apparent to the average person. Health care providers use this information to identify issues which, if left untreated, can lead to an early death.
Depending on your age and sex, you may need to be screened for: certain types of cancer; high blood pressure or high cholesterol; diabetes; osteoporosis (brittle bones); sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); and hearing loss or vision loss.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s website (http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/) has a calculator that can assess your individual preventive screening needs. Using the “myhealthfinder widget,” patients can answer three questions to get a personalized list of preventive care information. Once you have your personalized list, Dr. Perkins recommends bringing that information to your doctor’s visit.
Know What it Takes to Be Healthy
In addition, Dr. Perkins said it’s important for each person to understand what it takes for him or her to be healthy. “Your physician can help you with that,” he said. “There’s not a one size fits all. Seek advice from a health care professional if you have questions, if you need support, or if you have a significant family history of disease.”
Dr. Perkins’ shares five tips for staying healthy with all of his patients:
- Maintain your body weight within an ideal range
- Be physically active
- Make healthy food choices - limit the amount of calories you get from sugary beverages and snacks
- Be knowledgeable about preventive screenings, and know your family medical history
- Don’t smoke, and limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one or two drinks per day
To make an appointment with any USA physician, call (251) 434-3711.