Thursday, December 01, 2005
Doctor visits, shots important at all ages

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

As we become adults, we do a lot of things differently than we did as children. One of those is related to medical care. Well Baby visits and immunizations are a necessary part of children's medical care. Even though we all know that immunizations are necessary, we know that does not always happen. For example, the immunization rates in pre-school children are about 60 percent. That means that 40 percent of parents do not get all of their children's shots by the start of school. The schools get the numbers to 100 percent. Adults have two times when they should see their physicians. The first time is when they choose a new physician. All adults have a long medical history. Even if there is not much information in it, it is long. A new physician needs to know if you take any medications. A new physician needs to know if you have any allergies. A new physicians needs to know if you have had any surgery. A new physicians needs to know what immunizations you have had. That makes for a long first visit even if most of the answers are "no" An individual who moves to a new area needs to identify a new physician. That individual should see the new physicians before they get sick. It is not fair to ask a physician who has never seen you before to prescribe medications if they do not know your previous history. It is not fair to expect them to take the time necessary to get that history for a short sick visit. For those reasons an early scheduled visit with a new physician is a good idea. In addition, to that first visit, there is also a need for an annual visit after that. Most people are healthy when they are young. Many of them think that it is not beneficial to go to the physician at that age unless they get sick. There is some truth to that. There is no question that individuals over age 65 need an annual visit. They need to go for their annual screening tests for cancer. They need to go to make sure there are no new medical problems. They need to go to make sure their blood tests are normal. They need to get their annual flu shot. Individuals between 50 and 65 also have similar needs. Many medical problems appear in that age group. Some of them can occur without a lot of warning. Examples include high blood pressure or early diabetes. Treatment of those kinds of problems early can prevent further damage to the body later on. Other screening procedures are recommended at age 50. The best example of that is the colonoscopy for colon cancer. Individuals between 40 and 50 also have certain screening tests that are important to be done on an annual basis. This is the age group in which high blood pressure is liable to become a problem. This is the age at which women need to have their mammograms begin. Even individuals younger than 40 can have problems. These problems can be detected on an annual physical. Women at this age should be having annual PAP smears. Individuals with a family history of some diseases need to get checked at this age for those diseases. The list becomes longer and longer as we learn more about genes and the inheritance of diseases. Immunizations still should be given every 10 years. With the last ones at age 14, every one needs a booster at age 24. An opportunity is needed to discuss things such as weight, smoking, diet and physical fitness. It is likely that the number of people who follow the annual checkup guidelines is not much different than the 60 percent of pre-school children who get immunizations. The only ones who can change that number are the patients themselves. If you have not had a checkup in the last 12 months, you are overdue. Use this article as a reminder to call your physician and arrange an appointment.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Cholesterol Screening offered December 14
The CHEER Community Center of Georgetown will be holding a free cholesterol screening on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. The screenings will be provided by Beebe Medical Center's Community Health Department. This screening will be open to the public for those who want to know their cholesterol numbers. The test takes about 10 minutes and does not require fasting. Test results provide total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol) levels within five minutes. Pre-registration is a must. Call 854-9500 to schedule a 10-minute appointment.

Delaware Prescription Assistance Program
A representative from the Delaware Prescription Assistance Program will be at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road, Georgetown, to offer education and outreach support to those needing assistance in understanding the new prescription drug program. Please mark your calendar for the following dates:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 13 and 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 10 and 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information call 854-9500.