Stay Healthy in the New Year with Preventive Screenings
If you're resolving to be healthier in the new year, a great place to start is at your doctor's office. Regular health exams can find problems early, when your chances for treatment are better. This year, resolve to have your annual physical exam and see your doctor for preventive screenings.
Of course, it can be confusing to know which exams and screenings you need. These depend on your age, health and family history and lifestyle choices such as what you eat, how active you are and whether you smoke. Be sure to keep your doctor informed about your habits and ask which exams are right for you.
Here are just some of the tests and screenings to remember when making your next doctor's appointment*:
For All Adults
- Blood pressure: Starting at age 18, you should have your blood pressure tested at least every 2 years. High blood pressure can lead to heart failure, stroke, kidney failure and coronary heart disease, while low blood pressure may also indicate a problem when coupled with other symptoms.
- Cholesterol: High cholesterol is often a sign of a more serious health condition and is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. That's why it's important for adults to know their cholesterol levels. Screenings should start at age 35 for most men and at age 45 for most women. Men ages 20 to 35 and women ages 20 to 45 who have other risk factors for coronary heart disease should also be screened.
- Colorectal cancer: Starting at age 50, both men and women should be tested for colorectal cancer, otherwise known as colon cancer. Screenings can find precancerous growths before they turn into cancer and spot colon cancer early, when it's easiest to treat. From 2003 to 2007, screenings prevented about 66,000 colorectal cancer cases and saved 32,000 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you have an increased risk for colon cancer, you may need to be tested earlier. Just a few of the increased risk factors include:
- Heavy alcohol use
- A diet that is high in red meat
- A family history of colorectal cancer
- A personal history of colorectal polyps
Speak with your doctor to learn if you are at risk and should be tested early.
- Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is preventable and regular screenings can help you and your doctor develop a plan for treatment, especially when caught early. Beginning at age 45, you should be screened for diabetes every 3 years. If you are considered high risk based on your weight or family history, you should be tested annually.
- Breast exam or mammogram: Between the ages of 20 and 39, women should have a clinical exam every 3 years. Women over age 40 should have an annual clinical exam and a mammogram every 2 years.
- Pap test: Women in their 20s need an annual pap test (or pap smear) to test for cervical cancer. After age 30, women can be screened every 2 to 3 years, if their past 3 test results were normal. Regular pap tests greatly reduce the number of new cervical cancers diagnosed and the number of deaths each year.
- Osteoporosis: Women over the age of 65 should ask their doctors about a bone-density screening.
Prostate cancer: Men over the age of 50 should ask their doctor about having a prostate exam. Men over the age of 40 with a family history of prostate cancer should also inquire. Prostate cancer can often be found early with testing, and since early detection testing became common in the 1990s, the death rate for prostate cancer has decreased.
Finally, be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any other health concerns. It will go a long way towards having a safe and healthy new year.
*This list of preventive tests is not complete and your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you. Ask your doctor which tests are right for you.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health, Krames Staywell
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