Medical Screening – The Basics
First, please remember that I am not giving advice on medical screening here. I am a physician, but the recommendations here are global. If you want medical advice, please go see your doctor.
What tests are important?
Anyone at or beyond fifty years must pay attention to blood pressure, cholesterol, and colon cancer screening.
The thought of some of these tests can be cringe-worthy. However, getting the right tests can help catch problems early and can lead to a longer and healthier life.
Colonoscopies are never high on anyone’s to do list. It is an important test though. A colonoscopy is most often used to search for colon cancer in both men and women. It also allows a doctor to see any subtle bleeding that may be occurring without your knowledge. For males, a colonoscopy can also alert your doctor if you have prostate cancer.
A screening colonoscopy is recommended at the age of 50 for everyone and earlier for some people who may have a family history of cancer or genetic abnormalities. Thoroughly discuss colon cancer screening with you doctor.
For women, as you get older, self-breast examination monthly is important. Further, at the age of forty, women should have regular mammograms once a year, although some doctors advise it less frequently now.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age. Skipping out on breast exams and mammograms may be a serious health risk. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may suggest an exam twice a year instead of just once. Double check with your doctor and plan your breast examinations together.
As you age, your bones can weaken and begin to lose density. This is why it’s important you take a bone density test as you grow older. These tests are usually recommended for men and women who are over sixty, but if you’re at a higher risk, it may be needed earlier. Again, discuss with your physician.
What are the High Risk Factors?
One of the high risk factors is osteoporosis, a condition where bones become brittle. When you have osteoporosis, you’re more likely to fracture or break bones, making a bone density test even more important. With this condition, there is a greater risk of bone fracture with falling. Check with your doctor and get a bone density test as part of your physical.
For women, a Pap smear may be just as important as a breast exam or mammogram. Women in their fifties and sixties are just as susceptible to cervical cancer as are young women.
Pap smears are recommended for women every two years regardless of whether or not you’re sexually active. These screenings aren’t just for cancer – they can also help your doctor check for irregular bleeding or other problems.
One of the most important tests, a cholesterol screening, should not be omitted from a physical checkup. Men are more prone to high cholesterol, but studies show that women over the age of fifty may develop high cholesterol too. High cholesterol is one of the leading causes of heart attacks and strokes. As you grow older, make sure your cholesterol levels are checked periodically.
But what about diet?
The role of diet and health cannot be ignored here. There are many online resources for diet including our cookbook, Life.Matters Recipes for Living. I recommend plenty of fresh vegetables, grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken to my patients who ask about diet. Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice and as a rule, I tend to recommend a low-carbohydrate lifestyle. As the saying goes, “we are what we eat” and I, for one, am not interested in being fast-food slop.