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Catch—or Even Prevent—Chronic Disease with These Four Proactive Approaches

Posted August 17, 2023 by James Grow, Jr., M.D.

Doctor and patient

Life’s hustle and bustle can make it easy to forget to prioritize self-care. But, it’s important to take charge of your health. Regular preventive care and making healthy choices help achieve optimal health, improved quality of life and reduced risk for chronic disease.

If there is a potential health issue, preventive care increases the likelihood of early detection and in many cases, allows for early intervention and treatment for improved outcomes.

SummaCare offers four ways you can be proactive in achieving optimal health. Schedule routine checkups and health screenings with your provider today and take the first step towards a healthier tomorrow.

Schedule routine medical and dental checkups

Regular appointments with your primary care provider (PCP) and dentist are important ways to be proactive in your health. In addition to physical exams, regular visits can focus on preventive care. Some examples of screening are listed below. Please check with your PCP because recommendations vary based on recommending professional group.

  • Cholesterol check: The American Heart Association recommends cholesterol checks every four to six years for individuals over the age of 20. If you are obese, or at high risk your doctor may check it more often.
  • High blood pressure readings: The American Heart Association recommends blood pressure readings should be taken routinely, at the very least annually.
  • Diabetes screening: One should get checked for diabetes if they have at a minimum a positive family history or are over-weight at age 35 to age 70 as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
  • Dental exam: The American Dental Association recommends an oral health exam every six months, depending on a person’s risk for gum disease, tooth decay and oral cancer.

In addition, your PCP can recommend lifestyle changes to decrease your risk of chronic disease or important preventive health and cancer screenings, based on your age, gender, family history and lifestyle. Regular appointments also provide the opportunity to discuss any health concerns you may have and how best to address them.

Regularly screen for cancer

Cancer screening tests can help find a cancer before the person experiences any symptoms. Regular cancer screenings increase your chance of detecting certain cancers early when they are easier to treat.

  • Cervical cancer:  The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend Pap smears starting at age 21 to 29 should have a Pap smear every three years. Starting at age 30 to 65, there are options for 3 or 5 year screening. However, annual gynecological exams are still recommended.
  • Breast cancer: The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend that all women of average risk get a mammogram at age 40 and screen until age 75.
  • Prostate cancer: United States Preventive Services Task Force recommend men aged 55-69 make an individual decision based on a discussion with their clinician. Earlier discussion is important with a positive family history.
  • Colorectal cancer: it is generally recommend that regular colorectal cancer tests start at age 45. Some high-risk
  • individuals may need earlier testing.
  • Lung cancer: People who are 50 to 80 years old and have a history of heavy smoking who are currently smoking or have not quit until the last 15 years should have yearly lung cancer screenings with a low-dose Chest CT scan.

Stay up to date on vaccinations

Vaccination is one of the safest and most convenient ways to protect your health by preventing diseases and other health problems. Vaccines offer your body protection by helping your immune system remember how to fight a specific infection.

Adults need to keep their vaccines up to date because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a routine adult vaccination schedule by age.

Know your risk factors and take control of your health

Knowing your family history is an important first step to a healthier you. If you have a family history of a chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, you’re more likely to get the disease yourself.

Talk with your PCP about ways to reduce your risk, including early screening for applicable diseases or conditions. While you can’t change your genes, you can reduce some of your risk factors by choosing healthy lifestyle options, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in processed foods
  • Weekly activity that includes at least 150 minutes of cardio exercise and two or more days of strength activities
  • Avoiding tobacco products and limiting alcohol use
  • Protecting your skin from UV radiation from the sun

While you can’t turn back the clock, you can be proactive and slow down aging. By getting the right health screenings and preventive care, you are taking the right steps toward living a longer, healthier life.