Certain screenings can protect people against health troubles

Posted April 08, 2014, at 3:42 p.m.
Kathy Frodahl is the president and CEO of New England Home Health Care.
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Kathy Frodahl is the president and CEO of New England Home Health Care.

We hear more talk in our world about living the healthy lifestyle, for the young and old alike. In my last article I mentioned the aging baby boomer population; it is predicted that by 2015, 45 percent of the population will be represented by people 50 years or older.

While the trend is showing that people are living longer, how can we protect our health as we age?

I think we can all agree that a healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet and a regular exercise schedule. Another way to protect your health is to visit your physician regularly and have regular health screenings.

Some screenings that you should discuss with your physician are:

• Blood pressure screening. High blood pressure has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to be tested. If you have high blood pressure, taking steps to lower it can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.

• Cholesterol screening. The American Heart Association states that high cholesterol is one of the major risk factors leading to heart disease, heart attack and stroke. A healthy diet and regular cardiovascular exercise along with a sound medical treatment plan prescribed by your physician can help lower your cholesterol.

• Colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is the second biggest killer of all cancers. Regularly scheduled colonoscopy screening increases your chances of discovering polyps before they become cancerous and for catching cancer in the early stages.

• Breast cancer screening. Everyone agrees that early breast-cancer detection saves lives. The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance states that one out of eight women will receive a breast-cancer diagnosis. The debate is not about whether to be screened, but at what age to start and how often?

Some resources say to start screening at age 40, some say to start at age 50 and to have regular mammograms every two years. You should discuss any risk factors you may have with your physician to determine at what age you should start screenings and how often you should be screened.

• Cervical cancer screening. Women age 21-65 should be screened regularly for cervical cancer. Having regular PAP smears is the best way to help protect against cervical cancer. The PAP test looks for pre-cancerous cell changes on the cervix that might become cancerous if they are not treated appropriately. The HPV test looks for the human papillomavirus that can cause these cells to change. You should talk to your physician about the frequency of these screenings.

• Prostate cancer screening. The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk to their physicians about screening for prostate cancer. For most men at average risk, screenings start at age 50. Screening involves a blood test called PSA (prostate specific antigen) and a digital rectal exam. These tests look for warning signs of prostate cancer. The tests cannot tell for sure if a man has prostate cancer; depending on the results, your physician will determine whether further testing is indicated.

This list is not inclusive, and any concerns you have about your health should be discussed with your physician, who is your best guide in making health decisions. Here’s to a long, active, and healthy life!

Kathy Frodahl is the president and CEO at New England Home Health Care.

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