You have a lot of things to keep track of in your life, but none of them are as important as your health. Your health is what allows you to enjoy all of the other things in your life – without it, you could be robbed of your hobbies, your success, and even your family life. So it’s important to invest in your health. Here’s what that means.
Health insurance: you have to have it
As of this writing, you’re required to have health insurance in the United States. But even if that changes soon, it’s very important that you have health insurance – even if you feel fine now. Health insurance means that nasty medical surprises won’t bankrupt you, and that you won’t have to stop vital care because you can’t afford it. If you don’t have health insurance when you need it, it could ruin your life – so make sure you have it, and then move on to the next section.
Your first step: a primary care provider
There are a lot of different types of doctors out there. Which one do you need? Maybe you have a specific concern about some part of your body – should you head straight to a doctor that specializes in that area?
As complicated as this may all seem, the solution is actually pretty simple: you’ll want to find a primary care provider for you and your family. Your primary care doctor will take care of all of your routine health needs, and he or she will also act as your guide for any more complicated medical steps – as we’ll see shortly, your primary care doctor is the one who will refer you to specialists (while you don’t always need a referral to see a specialist, it’s a good idea to get one – it helps to make sure that your primary care doctor agrees that you’re headed to the right type of specialists, and some insurance companies require referrals in order to cover your visit).
If you have children, their primary care doctor will be a pediatrician – which, of course, is a doctor who specializes in children.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on how often you should visit your primary care doctor, but your doctor will let you know how soon you should come back based on your specific situation and needs.
See the specialist
If you have a specific problem with your health, your primary care doctor may not be enough. Your primary care doctor is charged with monitoring your overall health and directing you to the right places for more specific care. So if you show up with a problem with your ears, he or she will send you to an ears, nose, and throat specialist. If you show up feeling blue or exhibiting signs of mental issues, your primary care doctor will likely refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. In each case, your primary care doctor is your first step.
Similarly, not every aspect of your dental health is covered by your dentist. While you should visit your dentist for routine checkups, teeth cleaning, and special appointments like cavity fillings, there may come a time when you need special care. A dentist may refer you to an orthodontist, for instance, if he or she feels that your teeth are not in proper alignment. And if you need to get your wisdom teeth out, a good dentist will refer you to a qualified oral surgeon.
Care for your whole life
There may come a time when you can no longer care for yourself in your own home. At that point, you’ll have two options: you can move out, to a nursing home or to a relative’s home, or – if you have the means – you can opt for home health care from a qualified provider. Home health care providers can help you by bringing visiting and even live-in nurses to your home, extending the amount of time that you are able to live there. While not everyone can afford home health care when they are sick or aging, it’s a godsend for those who can, particularly those who are not yet old enough for nursing homes but are sick enough to require constant care.