Harvard Women's Health Watch

What you can do to keep old ailments from coming back to haunt you

After injuries have healed and infections have cleared, their long term effects may present health issues decades later.

old ailments
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Thanks to modern medicine, most of us have weathered a few accidents and illnesses with little consequence. A broken leg from a skiing accident, a sunburn from a day at the beach, or a week spent in bed with a childhood illness may be distant memories. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that a decades-old injury or infection can trigger a new round of medical woes.

That's why it's important to be assessed by your health care team regularly. Even if you don't need an annual physical exam, you can share your medical history to see what in your medical past is likely to dog you in the future. "When doctors see people regularly, we come to understand who they are, so we can interpret their symptoms in a much better context," says Dr. Karen Carlson, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Learning the problems you're likely to confront in the future and being alert to new symptoms can help you minimize long-term effects. So can following a plant-based diet, getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, and having the recommended screening tests and inoculations.

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