Your 20s are a time of major transitions. You’re not only figuring out little things like what you want to do with your life, but also taking on responsibilities you never had to think twice about as a teen.
Adulting can be difficult. But taking care of your health shouldn’t be.
One thing that often slips through the cracks during this defining decade is being proactive about overall health and wellness. And we know! Life gets busy (and insurance is confusing once you’re off of a parent’s plan). But building a trusting relationship now with a healthcare provider can help you reach your current health goals — and can play a crucial role in your future well-being.
Primary care providers (PCPs) are also known as general practitioners, and your PCP is the first person you’ll see for most non-emergency health issues. PCPs are not all MDs; you might see a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner during your visit. For this reason, PCPs must have a thorough knowledge of many different specialties, including:
• Internal medicine
• Obstetrics and gynecology
• Behavioral health
Through routine checkups, PCPs help prevent, diagnose, and treat many common illnesses and injuries. Yours will also work closely with you to come up with a personalized wellness plan that focuses on your specific healthcare needs and goals.
Many young people put off choosing a PCP because they believe they don’t need one. After all, you’re young and healthy — why see a doctor?
The truth is, many medical conditions do not have visible symptoms but could still affect your life. Research has shown that adults with a PCP have 19 percent lower odds of premature death than individuals who do not have a PCP.
Plus, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to treat conditions before they require emergency or specialist intervention. Your PCP can help you identify areas of concern before they get out of hand. PCPs are often the first to spot signs of depression, diabetes, thyroid issues, and other problems that may develop over time.
(Learn more about what a PCP can do for you — read “How a Primary Care Provider Can Help You.”)
Once a condition is diagnosed, a PCP can step in to help manage the course of treatment; PCPs are adept at tracking multiple medications and other interventions so there are no negative interactions. If there’s a need for ongoing treatment, they also help patients navigate the complexities of the healthcare system, and they provide referrals to qualified specialists.
When you know what’s going on inside your body, it’s much easier to take steps to improve your health. Your PCP can order lab tests of your blood and urine, and the results can tell you whether you’re at risk for conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, which should be treated immediately. You can always reach out to them with questions and nothing is off the table.
The more information you have, the easier it is to make better, more-informed choices for your long-term health. Think of your PCP as a health mentor who has your best interests at heart.
(Ready to make an appointment? Before your first visit, read “How to Prepare for a Routine Checkup.”)
If you’re under the age of 50 and in good health, you can probably visit your PCP every three years. However, many insurance companies offer one free or reduced-cost primary care visit every year, to help their customers stay on top of their health.
If you regularly take medication for any reason or have a health condition that needs to be monitored, ask your PCP how often they’d like to see you. Depending on your risk factors, they can help you by designing a plan that works with your schedule, needs, and insurance capacity.
You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t let your health stop you from enjoying everything your 20s has to offer! At Carbon Health, we’re passionate about making high-quality care available to everyone, at any age. Our “virtual first” care model makes video visits a practical, integrated, convenient part of your healthcare plan. Download the Carbon Health app, or visit our website to learn more. (And if you can’t access insurance, you may still be able to access preventive screenings and vaccinations at free or sliding-scale clinics. Check out FreeClinics.com.)