Everyone needs a primary care doctor—the one who conducts your physicals, the one you call when you twist your ankle, get stung by a bee, or eat something funny. Some doctors treat entire families; others see only children or only adults. Which type of doctor best suits you and your family? Let’s take a look at four types of primary care physicians.
Family Medicine (also known as Family Practice) – Care for all individuals
At the heart of this specialty is the patient-physician relationship. Family Medicine practitioners cover all areas of general health care, including pediatric and adolescent health, women’s health and gynecology, men’s health and aging issues.
Internal Medicine (also known as “Internists”) – Care for adults
Internal Medicine practitioners are trained to deal with any medical issue an adult patient may have, from preventive care and common disorders to rare or chronic diseases. Internists see a wide variety of patients ranging from highly athletic individuals to people with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and kidney disease. They help all their patients work toward achieving optimal physical and mental health. Medical systems can be difficult for patients to navigate through, especially if they have complex medical problems. Internists work with multiple specialists and other care providers to help patients achieve a sense of comprehensive and coordinated care.
Pediatrics – Care for children
Pediatrics is concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Because young patients are rapidly growing and changing, pediatricians must communicate with caregivers to ensure they understand as much as possible about their children’s growth, development, and overall picture of health.
Geriatric Medicine – Care for adults of advanced age
Geriatric Medicine is concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disorders that occur in older people. Today, the number of people aged 65 and older is larger than ever before, and those aged 85 and older constitute the fastest growing segment of the population. Geriatricians recognize that aging is not an illness; rather, it is a time where quality of life and functional ability can be maintained with proper care, and health and happiness are encouraged.
Many parents ask me for advice on how to keep their children healthy. For most parents and kids, hearing “diet and exercise” is not only intimidating but also overwhelming. They don’t know how and where to start. To help demystify those words of advice that they often hear, I suggest simple lifestyle changes. Parents should play a proactive role in setting up a positive environment in which their children can succeed. Small, consistent changes in eating habits and lifestyle are very powerful. They have long-lasting effects on a child’s future habits.
Here are 10 simple steps parents can take to set their family on the road to a healthy lifestyle:
- Stock the house with healthy snacks. When a child wants a cookie, it’s easier to say no if it is not available. Stock up on fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts. Cut and package fruit and nuts in advance so they are ready for your kids to grab when they are hungry.
- Plan meals. Use the weekend to plan meals for the week ahead. Involve your family in the planning. This avoids fast-food outings during a busy week. Make enough for leftovers to take to school or to the office.
- Eat mindfully. Eat as a family at the dinner table at least five times a week without the distractions of the TV, computer or cell phone. Enjoy your meals as a family. Kids eat slower and stop when they are full when they eat without distractions. Avoid eating on the run, in the car, on the couch or over the sink.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Plan on serving your kids a colorful salad or vegetable dish at each meal. Kids respond to exciting, colorful food!
- Eat high-fiber carbohydrates. Choose whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, yams or sweet potatoes.
- Eat breakfast. Encouraging kids to eat a healthy breakfast keeps them from overeating later in the day or eating an unhealthy lunch at school. They also pay better attention in class.
- Drink water. Avoid sugary drinks such as sodas, juices and energy drinks. Even diet drinks can increase cravings for other sugary food products. In addition, kids perceive thirst as hunger. Hunger subsides when they are well hydrated.
- Control portions. Measure your kids’ portions instead of letting them serve themselves. Encourage them to eat slowly by having a family conversation at the dinner table. Wait 20 minutes before giving another portion; it takes awhile for the stomach to tell the brain that it is full. Most of the time, kids don’t even need that second portion if they just wait.
- Move. It’s important for kids to be active. They can be part of an after-school sports group. Or the family can take short hikes, walks in the neighborhood or bike rides. Make it fun for the kids to take the stairs instead of the elevator. If the family does watch TV, try to do something active with it like a hula-hoop competition during commercial breaks.
- Be a positive influence. It’s important for kids to know that mom and dad are committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Practice and live the previous steps daily.
It’s easier for kids to live a healthier lifestyle inside and outside the home if they are given the tools and resources that start within the home.