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Oct 23, 2014

Healthy Living looks at the importance of visiting a doctor

We all know – even if we don’t practice the habit – that when we’re feeling under the weather or experiencing strange pains or symptoms; that it is advisable to go to a doctor. What we don’t think about is how important it is to visit a doctor even when we’re feeling perfectly fine. What for? Well, that’s exactly what we discuss in this week’s Healthy Living.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
If we were to think of the human body like a car, we jump in and carry on with our daily functions hardly thinking of what’s taking place under the hood.  Until one day, something (or everything) just stops working. We visit the mechanic and find out it could’ve been prevented if we’d just checked the engine on a regular basis. When it comes to our bodies, we’re not that much different.Most people visit a doctor, when something is wrong; rarely do we stop to think of the type of maintenance the body deserves when we’re feeling perfectly fine.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz, Specialist in Family Medicine

Melissa Diaz


“Generally speaking, people only like to present only when they feel unwell. So they’ll present with a cough and cold than to come in and say can I kindly get a pap smear done…usually.”

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz is a family medicine specialist which means she sees and treats people of all ages and genders focusing meeting the needs of the entire family from birth to elderly. Her primary focus though is one preventative medicine.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“Preventative medicine generally could be defined as a consultation done between a doctor and a generally well patient. It encompasses a medical history, physical exam and a lab test and screening tests. It tries to detect risk factors or predisposing factors that a patient may have for certain preventable diseases. It also focuses on screening examinations to try to pick up any early signs of symptoms for diseases like breast cancer cervical cancer any other disease. It is important because we know that non-communicable disease like diabetes and hypertension are very prevalent in many communities and in fact in Belize, cardio vascular disease and diabetes are some the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in our country.”

 

What better way to take charge of your health than to find problems even before they start. This is done through a routine annual medical examination. While this is a standard practice in more developed countries, in Belize, the practice is just starting to take root.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“It is picking up a bit more. I think in large companies, the human resources departments are doing a lot of promotions to try to encourage people to come in for their annual medical. Apart of it is, as I mentioned before, people feel well and because you feel well, you don’t necessarily feel that it is necessary to present to a doctor. But the importance of presenting for your annual is to keep you feeling well. The annual examination follows similar to any consultation. We’d like to do a medical history and in the medical history talking about any concerns, or any problems that the person may have. Included in this is also a past medical history, has a doctor in the past said you are overweight, has a doctor classified you as hypertensive and a family history, which is very important. Because for some communicable and non-communicable disease can have genetic predisposition. It’s important to know if you smoke. How many cigarettes do you smoke? Do you drink alcohol? What’s your diet like? Do you have any stresses at home, in the workplace? And once we find out all this, then we move on to start your physical examination. A thorough physical examination will include some important aspects. For instance we need to know your weight and height so that we can calculate your body mass index. So we will know if you are normal weight, under-weight or obese and then we will also do the blood pressure readings. Blood pressure is very vital because hypertension is one of the diseases that we are trying to prevent. So your blood pressure readings would be normal, pre-hypertensive or abnormal, over one-forty-ninety and at that point, you’d know you would have to see that person more often to try for that blood pressure to be better controlled. Included in your physical examination would also check the heart, the lungs; with consent though, a breast examination and an abdominal examination.”

 

In a routine annual medical lab tests will be requested as well.  Through a single blood sample the doctor will know your blood count; whether you are diabetic or pre diabetic; your cholesterol and triglycerides levels; how well your kidney and liver are functioning. Also, included in your lab work is a urine analysis. Cancer screening tests will be dependent on family history and age.

 

Dr. Melissa Diaz

“For example if you have a woman who is age twenty-one to sixty-four, at that point you should suggest doing a pap smear and the national guidelines suggests that you should do a pap smear annually and if you have three consecutive normal pap smears, you go on to do every three years. If you have a woman, forty to sixty-four, you would suggest a mammogram and the mammogram of course looks for early signs of breast cancer or early changes in the breast that could lead to breast cancer. If you have a male who is fifty and over, you would ask them to do a PSA test, which is the Prostatic Specific Antigen Blood Test and that along with a digital rectal examination helps to detect early prostate cancer as well. Male and females fifty and older should also think about screening for colon rectal cancer s by doing the gold standard if a colonoscopy.”

 

Dr. Diaz says that she does have patients that come in voluntarily for their annual medical. A very routine checkup may cost a minimum of a hundre3d and fifty dollars with more affordable options at public clinics. She also suggests checking your insurance to see if it is covered.

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