The Loop

Get Preventive Care Back on Track

Filed under: Benefits

The pandemic has created a rather unprecedented circumstance for most of us. First of all, it is universal. It hasn’t just affected everyone in the United States, it is an experience that has likely touched every single person on the planet, in one way or another. Second, most crisis situations haven’t touched everyone to the extent that this one has. And third, it is a health phenomenon, so it can impact everyone, and has, in different ways.

One of those ways was people became wary of interacting with others in close quarters. There are few interactions more intimate than a physical exam. It is therefore ironic that many people eschewed the common doctor’s office visit – for health reasons. In fact, a 2021 poll found that 78 percent of respondents had delayed at least one medical service due to COVID-19. Dental care topped that list at 30 percent, while annual physicals came in second at 27 percent.

While the concern of contracting COVID-19 at a medical facility is very real, avoiding regular preventive healthcare appointments can be detrimental as well – especially among people who suffer from chronic conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many of the leading causes of death in the United States are preventable, such as:

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

Regular visits with a primary care physician can help manage risk factors before they become fatal health conditions. However, managing current conditions is only one aspect of preventive care. Routine screenings and checkups can help facilitate early diagnosis of a serious illness or disease that you don’t know you have.

Annual Checkup

While annual checkups are recommended, not everyone necessarily needs  one every year. Many times, it can depend on your medical history and age. If you’re a young adult and relatively healthy, you can go every two or three years. The typical preventive check-up usually includes:

  • Checking vital signs (temperature, pulse, blood pressure)
  • A physical exam
  • A potential blood screen that checks for white blood cells, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and kidney and liver function

Lipid Panel

A lipid panel is when a lab technician draws blood to check for several measures, such as levels of good cholesterol (HDL), bad cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides. A physician may order screening based on age or if you have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol, diabetes, or are obese. It is generally recommended for healthy adults to have their cholesterol checked at least every four to six years.

Blood Pressure

Most annual check-ups include a blood pressure check. People over the age of 20 with a blood pressure reading below 120/80 mm Hg should be screened every two years. For people 40 and over or who are in a higher risk category (e.g., African American, obese, high alcohol consumption, chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, heart disease) should be checked annually.


Pandemic-related delays have resulted in a substantial decline in cancer diagnoses in the US. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average monthly number of newly identified cases of eight types of cancer fell by nearly 30 percent in the early months of the pandemic, and declined again by 19 percent in the winter of 2021. This goes to show how important screenings and checkups are; it’s not as if the instances of cancer declined. The fact that they are eventually diagnosed puts more people in danger because they miss out on early treatment opportunities. In fact, recent estimates project that the number of colorectal and breast cancer screenings missed in 2020 will lead to 10,000 excess deaths over the next decade.

Breast cancer – Three quarters of women who get diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk. However, it is notable that deaths caused by breast cancer have been reduced by almost 40 percent over the past three decades thanks to mammograms. Some experts recommend starting annual mammograms at age 40; others say 45 or 50. While women 55 and older can transition to getting them every other year, screenings are recommended as long as they are healthy and expect to live more than 10 years.

Colorectal cancer – Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US. Screening is recommended for all adults aged 50 to 75 years. Recommended methods (e.g., stool-based tests, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy) and timeframes vary based on risk factors.

Cervical cancer – More than 90 percent of cervical cancer deaths can be prevented via early screening and the HPV vaccine. Screenings are particularly important because early-stage cervical cancers often have no symptoms. Women are advised to get a pap smear screening every three years, starting at age 21. After 30, that interval may be extended to every three to five years.

Prostate Cancer – The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men discuss the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screenings starting at age 40 for men at higher risk, and 45 or 50 for those at average risk. Screenings consist of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and/or a digital rectal exam (DRE).

Lung cancer – The American Cancer Society recommends an annual lung cancer screening via a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) for people ages 55 to 74 years who: currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years but smoked an average of a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

Anyone who has unsafe sex or drug users who share equipment should be tested for HIV. Sexually active adults, particularly gay and bisexual men, should test for syphilis, chlamydia, or gonorrhea when they have new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner with an STD.


A physician will generally call for a thyroid function test when he feels a lump at the base of the neck, where the gland is located. Symptoms for a thyroid condition may include unexplained weight loss or gain, fatigue, heart flutters, severe constipation, or hand tremors. The American Thyroid Foundation recommends that adults over age 35 be checked every five years.


Women aged 65 and up are particularly susceptible to osteoporosis. It is detected via a bone density screening with an X-ray called DEXA. Younger women with certain risk factors, such as a parent with a history of hip fracture, may be screened using the FRAX Risk Assessment tool to determine if a DEXA scan is recommended.

Heart Disease

Adults over age 40 with preexisting conditions may be advised to get a heart scan.

Postponed Medical Procedures

Many patients postponed scheduled non-life-threatening procedures and elective surgeries due to the precautions brought on by the pandemic. In areas where hospitals now have better capacity to handle more patients, it may be a good idea to reschedule those procedures.


As we have discovered with the drop in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated Americans, vaccines are effective. People are advised to continue receiving vaccines as a key part of preventive health, including annual flu vaccines. Adults also are recommended to receive a Tdap vaccine once every 10 years to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Adults over age 50 should consider getting the shingles and pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Perhaps more importantly, children who missed vaccines during these COVID years should get back on schedule with them. Vaccinations during childhood set up a foundation to help prevent diseases that could impact the rest of their life.


Routine skin exams (aka, “mole checks”) are particularly important for people who have a weakened immune system or a family history of skin cancer, as they can help diagnose skin cancer in its early stages.

Dental Care

Dentist checkups and cleanings are generally recommended every six months, or at least once a year. Health researchers have long established a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, so dental preventive care is good for both oral and physical health.

Vision Care

Infants should receive an eye screening at six and 12 months, then once a year between the ages of three and five. The American Optometric Association recommends annual comprehensive eye exams for children ages six to 17. Adults ages 18 through 64 are advised to visit an eye doctor at least every two years, then once a year after age 65. While those recommendations may seem fairly stringent, the key is not to ignore or delay screenings if you or your child appears to have some vision impairment. Also, having conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of eye disease behooves more frequent eye exams.


For people who are too busy for regular check-ups or have concerns about visiting a healthcare facility due to contagion, many physicians now offer a telemedicine option. In fact, frequent check-ins with a healthcare professional by phone or video calls can be very effective for people managing chronic conditions.

Get What You Already Pay For

The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies and Medicare to offer preventive services at no cost. In many cases, vaccinations and screening tests also are free when visiting an in-network provider. After all, you’re paying a monthly premium to a health insurer, so you might as well take advantage of the screenings and tests provided at no additional cost. The legislative mandate for preventive care coverage was specifically designed to encourage people to seek regular checkups and detect conditions before they escalate. If there is one health priority you should pursue in 2022, it’s getting your family’s preventive care checkups back on track – so you can stay on track for healthy living.

The Loop Archives

Open All | Close All

Health Care Reform
Training & Leadership Development
Performance Management
Attraction & Retention

Request More Info


RSS Subscribe via RSS

Join Our Newsletter

Thank you for subscribing.