by Stewart B. Segal, MD
When you purchase a new car, the car comes with a service manual. The manual instructs the owner on when to bring the car in for services and which services are needed at specific times. Routine service requirements are based on both miles driven and the age of the car.
Your body has a service manual as well. At birth, your parents are given instructions on when to bring you in for routine check-ups, shots and laboratory testing. Children are held to a strict routine service schedule until they leave for college. With this series of articles, my intent is to give my adult patients a manual outlining when to come in for routine preventative maintenance, as well as disease state care. While cars are serviced according to age and mileage, humans need servicing based on age, family history, personal history and disease state.
Routine visits should not end at 18 years of age. Physicals should be custom made to the individual’s family history, personal history and current condition. Keeping with the car analogy, the service requirements for a Yugo and a Mercedes are different. Your genetics (family history) correspond to model and make of your car. Your personal history, what you have done with your genetics, corresponds to how well you have treated your car. If you dog a Mercedes, never changing the oil or doing any repairs, you turn a piece of art into a piece of junk. Too many of my patients neglect their bodies, feeding them junk, stressing them to the max and ultimately ruining God’s beautiful work.
At the age of 21, patients should come in for a staging physical. At that time, an in depth analysis of family history and personal history as well as a full physical exam, should help the patient and physician set up a customized schedule for future visits. Most young adults need repeat exams on an ever 4 year schedule, barring any intervening health issues. Starting at the age of 40, routine physicals should increase to an every other year schedule. At age 50, yearly physicals are the norm. Diagnostic testing (mammograms, colonoscopies, cholesterol levels, etc.) are performed as individual history and national standards demand.
In the next few days, I will cover how specific disease states affect your need for scheduled maintenance. If you haven’t had a physical recently, please schedule one. A personalized service manual, designed to fit your unique family and personal history, should be part of your health record and should be your guide to staying healthy. Remember, the life you save may be your own.