On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

How to Get Your Health Back on Track in the New Year

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disruption in the lives of many Americans. Routines have been compromised, schedules have been altered and priorities have been put on the backburner. 

With less of a focus on certain aspects of life, simple things such as your own physical health have suffered. As a way to get your health back on track in 2022, we are highlighting the importance of preventive health and why you should prioritize your well being by visiting a primary care physician in the new year.


Preventive health care

Health care doesn’t always have to be reactive. Unfortunately for many people, this is the case after a disease or illness becomes an issue. Heart health is a prime example. Staying on top of your blood pressure and cholesterol can be the difference between living a long, healthy life or developing cardiovascular disease from years of neglect. Put another way, it’s much easier to fix a minor leak in your faucet compared to waiting until your entire pipe bursts and causes damage.

The purpose of preventive health care is to be proactive and reduce your risk of becoming sick or prevent you from developing chronic health conditions. This can be as simple as a blood draw, a vaccine or a screening.


Why is preventive care important?

Preventive health care is beneficial to your long-term health and outlook, both physically and financially. Catching things before they become problematic can increase your lifespan and help you avoid paying astronomical medical bills for surgeries, treatments or hospital stays. Here is a real life story of an INTEGRIS Health patient who explains how preventive care can save lives.

According to a health study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many of the leading causes of death in the United States can be prevented, including the following categories:

  • 39 percent of chronic lower respiratory diseases
  • 34 percent of diseases of the heart
  • 33 percent of strokes
  • 21 percent of cancer deaths

The biggest takeaway from the study is how simple preventive measures can lower your risk of certain serious illnesses.

Preventive factors that lead to heart disease

  • Tobacco use
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity

Preventive factors that lead to cancer

  • Tobacco use
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Long-term sun exposure
  • Certain hormones
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Some viruses and bacteria
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Environmental factors (exposure to pollutants or chemicals)

Preventive factors that lead to chronic respiratory disease

  • Tobacco use
  • Smoke (including second-hand smoke)
  • Indoor pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Environmental factors (exposure to pollutants or chemicals)

Preventive factors that lead to stroke

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Previous stroke
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Lack of physical activity

Seeing your primary care physician on a regular basis can limit these risk factors, thus reducing your chance of life-threatening problems. Read our blog on the preventive health appointments you should have each year.


What is a primary care physician?

Primary care physicians are the first line of defense for your health problems. Not only do they monitor your health, but they also can diagnose illnesses or diseases and refer you to the appropriate specialists. For example, they may conduct a screening that unveils a tumor and refer you to an oncologist to biopsy the cells for cancer.

Primary care physicians specialize in internal medicine or family medicine and are responsible for treating anything from diabetes to minor aches and pains. They can also help you stay on top of healthy habits such as following an appropriate diet for your age, a healthy body weight to maintain and encourage you to stay active.

In fact, those three habits – healthy diet, exercise and body weight – along with no smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can add more than a decade to your life expectancy, according to a Harvard Health study from 2018.

The study found women who followed a healthy lifestyle were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and men were 65 percent less likely to die from cancer.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, you should find one in your area and prioritize annual visits. A strong relationship with these doctors can be your lifeline in the event certain health problems arise.


Preventive health screening

As part of a preventive health visit, your primary care doctor will conduct a physical exam, perform various screenings and make recommendations on any necessary vaccinations.

Physical exam

Your doctor will start by reviewing any changes to your medical history or medications since your last visit. If this is your first appointment, they will inquire about your family history or ongoing health conditions you’re concerned with.

As for the physical aspect of the exam, your doctor will check your vital signs – body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation levels – and will check your body for any changes or lumps. They will use a stethoscope to listen to your heart, lungs and digestive tract to ensure they’re functioning properly. They will also look inside your ears, nose and throat.


In addition to a physical exam, your doctor will also want to check blood markers as part of a complete blood count or metabolic panel. These tests screen cholesterol levels, blood pressure, glucose levels, immune system health and kidney and liver function.

Older adults or those with a family history may require additional screenings. For example, adults who have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, diabetes or are obese should have an annual lipid panel to check their cholesterol.

Depending on preexisting conditions, adults over the age of 40 should consider a heart scan. At INTEGRIS Health, we offer an advanced heart scan that measures calcium deposits in your arteries. In addition, women over the age of 40 should receive annual mammograms either with your primary care doctor or OBGYN.


As adults, the sole focus of immunization tends to be which vaccinations your child should receive. However, adults need vaccines, too, which are a key part of preventive health. 

Talk to your doctor about which vaccines you should receive. In general, the annual flu shot will reduce your risk of developing a severe case of the influenza virus. All adults should also receive a Tdap vaccine once every 10 years to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Adults over the age of 50 can receive the shingles vaccine and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against pneumococcal disease and pneumonia and Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine to protect against meningitis 

Additionally, your doctor may recommend vaccines for certain occupational or behavioral reasons. The CDC recommends health care workers get vaccinated for hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella and chickenpox. They also recommend receiving vaccines if you plan on traveling to specific international countries. Examples include measles, yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A and malaria.


To schedule an appointment with a primary care physician, visit our doctor database to find a physician near you.


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