Medical Screenings a Life Saver

According to The Center for Preventive Medicine, “As a nation we have historically found expensive cures for illness and disease rather than focusing on effective prevention. The result is a national health crisis, in which more than 1.7 million Americans die each year from chronic diseases, accounting for about 70% of all US deaths. Although our population is aging, a full one-third of the years of potential life lost before the age of 65 are due to chronic illness. The good news is that, although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly of all health problems, they are also the most preventable.

“Five diseases cause more than two-thirds of all US deaths annually—heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (bronchitis, emphysema), and diabetes. Early detection plays a large role in aggressively treating these illnesses and in preventing long-term disability.

“Preventive screenings, testing and follow-up are essential in providing patients with the knowledge needed to address health problems in the early stages, when they are easier to treat and when treatment is more effective. Regular screenings for conditions such as high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and obesity can have dramatic results in combating these conditions.

“In addition, behavior modification, such as smoking cessation, exercise, reduced alcohol consumption, and healthy eating, has been proven to significantly reduce the risk factors that underlie our nation’s biggest health problems.”

Dr. Zahid Zafar, internal medicine physician with Wellness Concepts, recommends the following tests and screenings in order to prevent disease and potentially save lives:

Blood Cholesterol: a blood test to measure LDL (low-density lipoprotein—the good cholesterol); HDL (high density lipoprotein—the “bad” cholesterol); and total cholesterol. This should be done on a regular basis as high cholesterol is considered a red flag for heart disease and other medical issues.

Blood glucose: a test for levels of blood sugar, which can reveal the risk for, or presence of diabetes. This should be done if you have high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes.

Blood pressure: a test that measures the force of blood flow inside arteries. High levels could signal heart disease, diabetes, or other issues. This should be checked at least every two years if pressure is less than 120/80, once each year if it is 120-139/80 to 90, and more often if it is higher.

Bone density: an x-ray that measures calcium and other minerals in the bone to check for the risk of osteoporosis. Recommendation is to begin such screenings at age 65, or at 60 if you have risk factors such as low body weight or a family history of osteoporosis. Some physicians recommend a baseline test at menopause, or before for those with risk factors.

Colonoscopy: an exam that uses a camera to check for cancer, polyps, ulcers, and other abnormalities in the colon and rectum. It is recommended to begin having this exam at age 50, and every ten years afterward—more often if you have risk factors—until age 75.

Mammography: a low-radiation scan of breast tissue in women to check for abnormalities. It should be done every one to two years, starting at age 40. However self breast examination and yearly physical can also indicate a need for mammogram.

Pap smear: a test to detect changes in the cells of the cervix that indicate cervical cancer. This procedure should be done annually during the routine yearly female physical.