While health care decisions and screenings take place throughout the year, the end of the year offers a good time to ask yourself if you still have a few tasks to complete. Your primary care provider can also make recommendations that coincide with your age, family health history and lifestyle choices.
“The goal is to prevent illness or notice small problems and address them before they become bigger,” says Luke Menet, a Nurse Practitioner with ThedaCare Physicians in Kimberly, Darboy and Menasha. “On the other hand, normal test results are always reassuring. They give a person peace of mind.”
Here’s a list of five tasks you should take care to complete before the end of the year — plus an extra credit to kick off the new year with confidence!
1. Get Vaccinated
Getting vaccinated is your best defense against getting seriously ill with conditions including COVID-19, influenza, and pneumonia. Vaccines are constantly updated because germs mutate over time, and your body needs new instructions for fighting them. If you do become infected, vaccines can also lessen the severity of your illness and keep you out of the hospital.
“Multiple studies show that getting your annual flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting very sick and missing out on the fall and winter holidays,” says Dr. Suzanne Nadra Nouri Havican, a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-New London.
When you get vaccinated, you also protect those around you — especially newborn babies who are not yet vaccinated, people with serious health conditions like cancer, and older adults whose immunity decreases as they age.
In addition, to your annual flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or booster, you can ask your provider whether pneumonia, shingles, and other vaccines are right for you. RSV vaccines are available now as well for eligible populations.
Action Step: To schedule a vaccination, log into MyThedaCare, tap the main menu, click “Schedule an Appointment,” and choose “Vaccines.”
2. Schedule Key Cancer Screenings
A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray exam of the breasts to look for abnormal changes.
“One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime, and a mammogram is quick, safe and the best available method to detect breast cancer early,” Dr. Havican says. “In addition, it’s almost always free through your health plan coverage.”
Yearly screenings are recommended for women by the time they reach age 45, although a woman can choose to start earlier based on her family history. Women with dense breast tissue should consider a 3D mammogram, which is performed on the same equipment as a traditional mammogram.
Action Step: To schedule a mammogram, log into MyThedaCare, tap the main menu, click “Schedule an Appointment,” and choose “Lab & Imaging.”
A colonoscopy is a colorectal cancer screening for men and women starting at age 45, then once every 10 years if results are normal. When you get screened for colorectal cancer, you’re getting checked for the No. 1 most preventable cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death. When colorectal cancer is caught early, there is more than a 90% chance it can be treated successfully.
“Most colon cancers develop slowly from polyps, which are growths on the inner surface of the colon. The most successful way to prevent colon cancer is to find and remove these polyps before they become cancerous,” Dr. Havican says.
Action Step: If you’re due for a colonoscopy, request an appointment here. You will receive a call to schedule your colonoscopy.
3. Know Your Care Options
You, your family, and your holiday guests can access care in many ways. ThedaCare offers traditional clinic visits, urgent and walk-in care clinics, and emergency care. Both clinic and urgent care visits are offered in person and virtually.
“Urgent care is same-day care that can handle a variety of medical problems that need to be treated right away, but are not considered true emergencies,” Menet says. “Sometimes people use the emergency room for after-hours care for minor illnesses or injuries without realizing they have another option.”
The ER is specifically designed for complex and life-threatening illness and injury, including symptoms of heart attacks and strokes, head injuries, and severe cuts, among others.
4. Optimize Your Health Care Flexible Spending Dollars
If you set aside money in your employer’s health care flexible spending account (FSA) this year, you have until Dec. 31 to use those dollars. Depending on your employer’s plan, at the end of the year or grace period, you lose any money remaining in your FSA.
5. Develop One New Healthy Habit
“Many of us love to solve problems and puzzles because it makes us feel good. We also look for ways to reduce stress and frustration,” Dr. Havican says. “Each of us has the power to make small changes to daily habits that will allow us to live a healthier and more active life.”
Dr. Havican says she often refers to the 1980s movie, “What About Bob?” where the lead character becomes a happier, healthier version of himself by taking “baby steps.” She tells her patients she is “baby-stepping” to a healthier weight by packing leftovers from dinner to take to work and dodging last-minute lunch options.
Action Step: Set yourself up now for a healthy new year!
6. Extra Credit: Schedule a Wellness Visits
Before time gets away from you, set your annual wellness visit (sometimes known as your annual physical) for the coming year. You’ll have plenty of options when you schedule ahead, and you’ll usher in the new year with better health on your mind — and your calendar.
Action Step: To schedule a wellness visit, log into MyThedaCare, tap the main menu, click “Schedule an Appointment,” and choose “Primary Care Clinics.”
Take control of your health.
Log in to MyThedaCare to schedule visits, see urgent and walk-in care wait times, and communicate with your provider.