A health risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease. A health risk factor can be your age, sex, lifestyle, personal health history, or family health history.
If you have certain risk factors you are considered “at high risk.” For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, you are considered at high risk for heart disease. However, being at high risk does not mean that you are sure to develop a disease, just at “not at high risk” does not mean you won’t develop a disease. Because of the relationship between risk factors and disease, risk factors are used to determine how often you should receive preventive care services from your health care provider. Preventive care has proven value in the prevention and early detection of many diseases. These services include screenings for cancer and other diseases, immunizations, and clinical exams. You may need preventive care services every year, or only a health assessment every 3 to 5 years.
Become an active partner in managing your wellness. Make a note of the risk factors that you have. If you are at high risk and have not had the recommended preventive care, you should call your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant for a preventive care visit. Take your list with you; talk about the risk factors you have noted. Ask for a prevention plan you can use to improve your health and well being.
If you are not at high risk, you probably don’t need preventive care services right away. You should use the recommended preventive care schedules in this section as a guide. Only your personal physician can advise you about preventive care services for you. Even if you feel healthy, you should see your physician for a health assessment:
- Every 5 years between ages 20 to 40
- Every 3 years between ages 40 to 50
- Every year after age 50