The term preventive care may sound familiar to you. But you may not know exactly why it matters to your health. Preventive care is an umbrella term for healthcare strategies to prevent and detect chronic (ongoing) diseases early before they can occur or get worse. Your doctor may call it routine or regular care. Preventive healthcare services include:
- Regular medical and dental checkups.
- Routine vaccinations.
- Recommended cancer and other health screening tests.
Why preventive care matters
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six in 10 U.S. adults have at least one chronic disease. Common chronic diseases include:
- Heart disease.
- Chronic lung disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Chronic kidney disease.
Left untreated, chronic diseases can take a physical and emotional health toll. They’re the leading cause of disability and death in the U.S.
How much does preventive care cost?
According to Healthcare.gov, federal law requires most health insurance plans to cover eligible preventive care services, such as vaccinations and screening tests, at no cost to you. To get these preventive care services for free, you must see a doctor or other provider in your plan’s network.
You can find a complete list of covered preventive services for all adults, for women and for children at Healthcare.gov at www.healthcare.gov/coverage/preventive-care-benefits/.
How does preventive care differ from diagnostic care?
If your doctor finds something of concern during a preventive care screening, they may run additional tests. These are part of diagnostic care and are not covered under preventive care. What you will pay out of pocket depends on your health insurance plan.
What kinds of preventive health care do I need?
To decide what kind of preventive care you need, doctors consider various factors, including your age, gender, and whether you are pregnant. Common preventive health care needs include wellness exams (also known as “checkups”), dental exams, vaccines, and cancer screenings.
What should I know about common preventive care services?
Below are more details on common preventive care services for adults — and how often you need them.
You should see your doctor once a year to check your overall physical and mental health. During a regular checkup, your doctor may screen you for signs of heart disease by taking your blood pressure and running bloodwork to test your cholesterol level.
You should also see your dentist once a year to prevent cavities and oral health issues.
Recommended immunizations can prevent you from getting seriously ill. In many cases, they can prevent you from spreading illness to other people. Your doctor can help you decide which vaccines you need.
Diagnosing cancer early can make a difference in treatment options and survival rates. The American Cancer Society’s recommended cancer screenings include:
- Breast cancer. Women aged 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Starting at age 55, they can switch to every two years or continue yearly mammograms.
- Cervical cancer. Women should start screening at age 25 with a primary HPV (human papillomavirus) test done every five years.
- Colon and rectal cancer. Screening should start at age 45, either with a stool-based test or a colonoscopy. If results are normal, screening should continue every 10 years.
As you get older, complex health issues can affect your day-to-day functioning and overall quality of life. Preventive care can help you stay healthy, reduce your risk of disease, and live longer.