End of year medical checklist

As 2021 approaches, are you neglecting any yearly health to-dos?

2020 has pretty much wrecked our normal rhythms, but you still have time to get back on track with your yearly health screenings. Don’t miss this year-end medical to-do checklist!

  1. Get your annual physical and basic lab work. Your doctor may recommend more lab work based on your individual medical history, but a good baseline list would be CBC, CMP, Vitamin D, TSH, HbA1c, and a lipid panel. Preventive health visits should be completely covered by your insurance; it is a good idea to get in before the year is over. Your doctor will do a physical exam and check if you have any new health concerns. Yearly lab work is also a great way to track changes in your overall health. Has your cholesterol level changed? How is the regulation of your blood sugar looking? If you can get your blood work done before your annual visit with your primary care doctor, then you might have more of a chance to review the results with your doctor. I always recommend my patients to keep records of all their lab work and look them over themselves to try to spot any negative or positive trends. Bring a list of questions to your visit to make sure that anything you notice gets addressed. Getting your annual physical is even more crucial this year as we have all been through an unprecedented crisis. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can throw off blood sugar and cholesterol, even if we are still eating well and exercising. Remember that knowledge is power, and it’s always better to know where you stand.
  2. Get your annual pelvic and breast exam done and your Pap smear if due. Women aged 30-65 need a pap smear every 3 years or every 5 years if done with HPV co-testing. This can all be done at your annual physical if you do not have any new concerns. It’s a good idea to know the date of your last Pap and if it tested for HPV. Review past Pap smear results and bring up any questions with your physician. While your primary care doctor or Ob/Gyn should know when you are due for a Pap, ultimately your health is your responsibility. Screening guidelines are different if you had a previous cervical/ovarian/uterine cancer or a partial or total hysterectomy. Always consult with your doctor about the schedule right for you.
  3. Schedule any necessary screening exams – lung cancer screening, mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.
  4. A colonoscopy should be performed every 10 years starting at 50 years old unless you are at a higher risk. Talk to your doctor if you have family members who were diagnosed with colon cancer as you may need to screen earlier and more frequently. Screening is currently recommended between 50 and 75 years of age.
  5. Mammography is currently recommended every 2 years for women aged 50-74 unless you are at a higher risk. If you have a first-degree relative with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about screening earlier than 50 years old.
  6. Low dose computed tomography (LDCT) is a new lung cancer screening method. While recommendations for this modality are still being updated, the current guideline advises screening for adults aged 55-80 and a 30-pack per year smoking history for those who have quit within the last 15 years.
  7. Get your yearly eye exam and update your prescription if needed. Many things in health can be maintained and preserved. The best way to preserve vision, for example, is to make sure you always have the best possible support for your eyes. If you are experiencing eye strain or other ailments, talk to your eye doctor about the possibility of adding a blue light blocker or anti-glare feature to your glasses. Screens are very hard on our eyes and doing everything you can to protect them is always a good idea. Bone density, for another example, tends to decline gradually as we age (peaking in our 20s). While we can’t totally stop this process, we can influence the rate of decline. When we take care of our bodies, we decline more slowly and can enjoy better health for much longer.
  8. Review your medications with your doctor – make sure nothing is interacting negatively and that you still need to be taking everything prescribed. Sometimes patients will continue to take medication because the target end-date was not made clear.

“Knowledge is power and it’s always better to know where you stand.”

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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