As the new year approaches, make a resolution to be proactive about your health. Many of today’s severe diseases are most easily treated if caught early. For this reason, a number of screening procedures and tests have been developed to help prevent more serious illnesses. In fact, many insurance companies are required to pay in full for certain screenings. Knowing which screenings are right for you and when to get them is vital in making sure you stay healthy long into your later years.
Important Screenings for both Men and Women
According to an article by The American Public Health Association, there are three categories for adult preventive measures:
- Cardiovascular Screenings. Because heart disease remains one of the top killers among Americans, blood pressure testing should be done every two years. Additionally, cholesterol should be monitored every five years. Monitoring these levels will help you and your doctor formulate a diet and exercise plan to mitigate your risk.
- Immunizations. Shots aren’t just for kids! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults 19 years or older receive vaccines for influenza, HPV and Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis). Adults over the age of 50 receive the shingles vaccine, as well as both types of pneumococcal immunizations.
- Cancer Screenings. When we think of preventative health, many of us think of cancer before anything else. While your risk for certain cancers depends on an array of factors, there are a few screenings that are important for all adults to undergo. After the age of 50, all adults should be screened for colorectal cancer.
Preventative Services for Women
It’s important to recognize the different health needs of women and men. Cervical cancer can be devastating if not caught early. Therefore, women over the age of 21 should begin receiving PAP smears every three years. In addition, the risk for developing breast cancer increases as a woman ages, so mammograms should begin at age 50 at the latest. However, always take family history and other high risk factors into account. Based upon your complete medical profile, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing.
While these screenings are very important, cancer is not the only health concern for women. Women are more likely than men to develop issues such as osteoporosis. After the age of 65, doctors recommend that women should have their bone density checked. Your doctor will then recommend a schedule of tests in the future based upon the results.
Preventative Services for Men
Cardiovascular issues affect everyone, however, men are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than women (Harvard Health Publishing). For this reason, monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol should begin at age 45 and repeated often. Overweight men are at a higher risk and should ask their doctor if these tests should begin earlier than age 45. In addition, other health issues such as diabetes and kidney disease can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues. It is important for men to discuss their risk of heart disease with your doctor and tailor a testing schedule to meet their personal needs.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men. Therefore, Medicineplus.gov advises that men should discuss screening for prostate cancer with their doctor at age 50. High risk factors will come heavily into play here as the benefits of PSA testing may not mitigate the side effects. However, it is still important that all men fully understand their personal risk of this type of cancer and take preventative measures accordingly.
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