Is this you? “I am not sick; I feel well, so why go to the doctor?” Or are you telling yourself, “I know I should get that physical done, but not today, maybe next month.” Soon, a whole year has gone by and not one thing on your health checkup list has been accomplished! Starting today, schedule appointments to have these seven essential screenings done. It could save your life.
Millions of Americans of all genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds have high cholesterol. It is no wonder that heart disease in the number one killer of adults in North America. Cholesterol tests are standard blood tests ordered by your doctor or health care provider. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lowering your cholesterol can reduce the risk of:
- Developing heart disease.
- Death from heart disease.
- A nonfatal heart attack.
- Heart bypass surgery or angioplasty.
2. Blood Pressure
Aptly named the “silent killer,” many people have high blood pressure and don’t even know it. High blood pressure is surprisingly symptom free, but is a potentially dangerous condition. It could lead to a stroke, indicate heart disease, and other underlying health problems. A blood pressure check measures the pressure of blood flow against the walls of the blood vessels. This is a non-invasive test and should be checked during annual doctor visits.
A recent report issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force essentially recommended that mammograms not begin until age fifty. However, the fact remains that thousands of women’s lives have been saved by early screenings for breast cancer.
Yearly mammograms allow your physician and radiologist to monitor any abnormalities and changes in the breast, and are the best method of detection of this killer disease. Women of any age who find any irregularities during breast self-examinations should see their doctor as soon as possible. Keep in mind you can never start self-examinations too early in life.
4. Pap Test/ Prostate Exam
Pap smears look for infections and anomalies in the lining of the cervix and are crucial in the early detection of cervical cancer. They can significantly increase the chances of recovery from cervical cancer and stop it from spreading. All women who are sexually active should have annual pap smears. Personally, I schedule mine on my birthday as a gift to myself.
Men: Starting at age fifty, men should have a prostate exam every year. A doctor performs this exam by placing a lubricated gloved finger inside the man’s rectum to feel for lumps or irregularities on the prostate gland.
5. Skin Screening
Exposure to the sun can do major damage to your skin. If you are a sun lizard like I am, you should frequently check your skin for abnormalities, unusual marks, or mole irregularities. If you notice something that concerns you, consult a dermatologist as soon as possible. While people with fair skin are particularly prone to sunburn, everyone should exercise caution by using sun screen and wearing protective clothing while outdoors. When you schedule your annual physical exam, make a point of asking your physician to include a skin check.
6. Dental Cleaning
Let’s face it; we all want a full set of pearly whites well into our elderly years. Professional teeth cleaning is necessary in maintaining good oral hygiene, holding onto your teeth longer, and for early detection of dental diseases. Gum disease and cavities are some of the most common ailments that plague us and they are easily preventable with regular dental check-ups. The Academy of General Dentistry recommends that we visit a dentist every six months. If you are a tobacco user, consume alcohol and soda, or have an insatiable sweet tooth, you should not take your oral health for granted. Just ask anyone one who has had a root canal!
7. Eye Exam
Are you an avid reader? Do you text, tweet, and constantly check email on your iPhone or Blackberry? Now imagine a day when you are no longer able to perform these functions because your vision is impaired. Vision care is often one of the most neglected aspects of our health. Besides detecting poor eyesight, a comprehensive vision test can reveal an array of underlying health problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. And according to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the US. So be kind to your eyes and schedule an eye exam once a year.
Keep in mind that an annual physical can get many of these health checks done at once. The bottom line—it’s a well know fact, but little used opportunity, that prevention is better than the cure.
This article is not intended to give medical advice or diagnose a medical condition.