Good health is important to all of us, and wellness goes further than a good diet, exercise, and finding the time to relax and have fun. An important component of living well is prevention, and there are numerous screenings that can help us to stay proactive and healthy. Here are just a few common screenings to consider.
The Annual Check-up
A yearly visit with your primary care doctor is a great way to prevent and diagnose numerous health issues. At an annual physical, your doctor measures your height, weight, and blood pressure and listens to your heart and lungs. These appointments also provide an opportunity for blood tests that analyze cholesterol, hormone and vitamin levels, and screenings for infections and diseases. Annual check-ups also give you a chance to present your doctor with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health, from physical to emotional to mental.
Women should also visit a gynecologist each year for a pelvic and breast exam—crucial for early detection of cancers—and to discuss any reproductive concerns.
Most dental professionals recommend a cleaning twice a year and comprehensive x-rays of the teeth and jaw every two years. Regular visits with the dentist pave the way for strong teeth and gums and provide an opportunity for hygienists to check for gum disease, throat cancers, and other conditions of the mouth and throat.
The National Institute for Health (NIH) recommends that this test be performed starting at the age of 50 in order to prevent and/or diagnose colorectal cancers. Based on the presence of ulcers, polyps, and other abnormalities of the large intestine, your doctor can then recommend how often you should be tested in the future. If there is a history of colorectal cancers in your family, your doctor may recommend a screening sooner than the age of 50.
A mammogram is a screening for the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, and the NIH recommends that women get their first mammogram after the age of 40. X-ray imaging allows for the detection of tumors as well as microcalcification, which can indicate the presence of cancer. Diagnostic mammograms are used to check for breast cancer after a symptom has been found, such as a lump or a change in breast size or shape.