Posted August 17, 2020 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Officer and Vice President, Network Development and Contracting
Life is busy, and it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves first. There’s just not enough time in the day.
But even in these uncertain times of COVID-19, it’s important to take charge of your health. Preventive health screenings should be a priority to ensure optimal health, in addition to a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of rest.
Regular health exams and tests can detect problems even before you experience any symptoms. In addition, detecting a condition or disease early can help prevent a chronic disorder from developing and decrease your risk for complications later on.
Seeking care early gives you a better chance for the best possible outcome because early detection and treatment improve a doctor’s ability to provide the most comprehensive and effective care for you.
So, don’t delay your preventive health screenings or ignore symptoms that you’d otherwise call your doctor about. Doctor offices have always practiced strict infection control procedures, and have made even more changes to help keep patients and their staff safe amidst a continuing pandemic.
Health screenings are important for people of all ages, but screening tests will depend on your age, health and gender, and your risk factors, such as family history or lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, smoking and drinking). It’s best to start with your primary care physician to determine which health screenings you need and at what age you need them.
Know your risk factors and take control of your health. SummaCare offers some of the most common health screenings recommended for men and women of all ages.
• Cholesterol level: The American Heart Association recommends cholesterol checks every four to six years for both men and women over the age of 20. If you are obese, a smoker or frequently drink alcohol, your doctor may check it more often. Your optimal cholesterol reading will depend on your age and risk of heart disease. An LDL between 100-129 is considered healthy. Optimal levels for HDL should be 60 or above.
• High blood pressure: The American Heart Association recommends blood pressure readings should be taken routinely, at the very least annually. It should top your priority list because it’s the best indicator on how well your heart is functioning and can be a silent disease. A healthy blood pressure reading should be around 120 over 80.
• Diabetes screening: The American Diabetes Association recommends patients get checked for diabetes if they have a family history, a body mass index of 25 or higher, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and are over the age of 45. Your optimal blood sugar level should be less than 100 milligrams/deciliter. Your A1C reading — an average blood glucose over the past three to four months — should be less than 7 percent.
• Breast and cervical cancer: Mammograms and Pap smear tests are taken to prevent cervical and breast cancers, as well as other disorders that can affect women. The American Cancer Society recommends women, starting at age 21 and who are sexually active, should have a Pap smear every three years. In addition, women aged 40 and above should have an annual mammogram.
• Prostate cancer: The American Cancer Society recommends a prostate cancer test for men who are obese, have higher levels of testosterone and are 50 years or older. How often depends on the patient’s risk factors.
• Colorectal cancer: The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer tests for men and women starting at age 45, as well as those with inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal polyps and a family history of colon cancer.
• Oral cancer: The American Dental Association recommends men and women have an oral health exam every six months, depending on a person’s risk for gum disease, tooth decay and oral cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends men and women have oral cancer screenings every three years if they’re over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40.
Along with health screenings, some additional ways you can help prevent illness include avoiding tobacco use, exercising regularly, getting vaccinations, and seeing a doctor on a regular basis.
While you can’t turn back the clock, you can be proactive and slow down aging. By getting the right health screenings and treatments, you are taking the right steps toward living a longer, healthier life.
This information is meant as a guide and shouldn’t replace your doctor’s advice. Talk to your primary care physician to determine which tests are best for you and when.