Keeping Up with Health Screening

Keeping Up with Health Screening

Know the appropriate screening tests for your age group and for the age group of those you care about.

Health screening can often save a life or keep someone you love from a surgery or health complication. Being an RN, I frequently get calls from family and friends asking my advice on health issues. But you don’t need an RN to help someone you care about. As a mother, grandfather, aunt etc, you can help your children and other family members by gently reminding them of basic health screening procedures. Certainly how you live greatly contributes to health. Dr. Steven Rabin states: “

It gradually and consistently adds up.” So along with the following age appropriate screening tests, I am adding some lifestyle recommendations. File this information:

In your 20s

  • Cholesterol testing: starting at 20 be tested every 5 years
  • Blood pressure: starting at 20, be checked every 2 years
  • Clinical breast exam: every 3 years starting at 20; annually at age 40
  • Pap smear: starting at 21; then every 3 years

This is the time to build bone through weight-bearing exercise. Adopt a diet of lean meats, vegetables and fruits, limit alcohol and don’t smoke. If you do, quit. Dr. John Armato MD states: “Cholesterol starts penetrating blood vessel walls at age 2. Fifteen percent of teenagers are halfway to a heart attack.”

In your 30s

  • TSH (thyroid) screening: starting at 35, then every 5 years

During the reproductive years, women should take a multivitamin daily to ensure they are getting enough folic acid, a vitamin that reduces the risk of birth defects. Women should conduct regular breast self-exams and men testicular self-exams.

In your 40s

  • Mammogram (women only): annually starting at 40
  • Blood glucose test: every 3 years starting at 45

Your muscle mass will start declining so incorporate strength training and interval training into your workout. Women with menstrual and hormonal changes that are troubling should talk with their doctor. This is also the big decade for depression as children grow, marriages are tested, work becomes more demanding and overall life more complicated. Find a doctor who won’t just write you a script for a sleep aid.

In your 50s

  • Colonoscopy: starting at 50, then every 10 years
  • PSA test (men only): at 50 if you and your doctor determine the need to do so

Women should have a fact-based discussion with their doctor about hormone replacement therapy.  Men should have the same with their doctor about PSA testing. This is also the age to establish a medical power of attorney and an advanced directive. (see links below)

In your 60s

  • DXA bone density scan (women only): starting at 65; then every 1 to 2 years if on osteoporosis medication
  • Vision exam: annually starting at 65

Keep your mind and body healthy by exercising both. It’s use it or lose it time. Also continue considering advance care planning so if you face a health crisis, you are prepared.

In your 70s and beyond

  • DXA bone density (men only): at age 70

More of the same: exercise, volunteer and cultivate cognition.  Do anything that will help keep your mind sharp.  If you are having memory problems, consult your doctor for cognitive testing.

Help your family by reminding them of age-appropriate health-screening.

Advanced Directive:

Medical Power of Attorney:

Thanks to Providence Health

Thanks to Google Images




7 thoughts on “Keeping Up with Health Screening

  1. These are wise words, as you should always know what road you are on, as well as your loved ones. Being aggressive about keeping healthy is like an athlete who prepares for his/her season by exercise, diet, and training. Best to be in the best shape you can be when you begin your season, just like it is wise to prepare yourself for getting older through monitoring your vitals. Fruits and vegetables are good things, and embracing them in your diet can help prevent some of the things that shorten one’s life. It’s basic, but it works time and again. Just ask any doctor……..

    • Thanks so much, Bill. I love the comparison to an athlete getting ready for his or her season. LIfe is a continual path of physical change, and if we want to be here feeling good, we have to check our VITALS, as you say, and see what fine tuning might keep us in the game. THANKS!

  2. Beth,
    I have been cognitive of my health since a very young age due to juvenile diabetes and it has served me well. I listen to the things my body tells me and when I’m not feeling right I PUSH the doctors to do more testing. This pushing has saved my life on several occasions now, due to the fact that I have SEVERE heart disease… If I hadn’t pushed the doctors for more tests, I would have had a fatal heart attack at age 38.
    However, even with regular screenings things can go wrong.
    I am under constant care for my heart now and over the last 6 months had been experiencing some disturbing feelings with my heart. My heart doctor did an EKG and a stress test and said everything was fine. My lipid profile also showed good numbers, however I still felt awful. When the 3rd test she ran came out with no issues and she tried to brush me off saying it was anxiety, I pushed back and explained that I felt really awful, that I was feeling as bad as I had the year before when I’d had a heart attack. I requested as firmly as I could that she either do more testing or refer me somewhere else.
    She referred me to a specialist in heart problems who right away felt that because of my diabetes I could be experiencing severe issues with my previous stents. He sent me to the University of Chicago and I underwent more testing.
    It turned out I had another blockage that was causing me all the problems and could have been fatal had it gone any longer without care.
    Thus, even though I was under doctor’s care and testing for an ongoing problem I still needed to fight to be heard and solve the issue; other problems were discovered with my heart and I will be undergoing more testing and seeing another specialist.
    It is very important that people pay attention to what their bodies are telling them. Don’t brush away those chest pains, or tingling in the feet, don’t always listen to the doctor when they say the tests are all fine. We know our own bodies better than anyone and even if you’re getting the regular screenings keep note of how often you go to the bathroom, how thirsty you are, what kinds and when you have headaches, how your stomach behaves, how tired you feel…all of these can be signs of other things that may not show up on regular screenings.
    As a lifelong diabetic, I do recommend getting the blood glucose checked every year though. Three years between checks is too long especially as diabetes is on the rise. My mother in law recently discovered she had Type 2 diabetes, after some of the symptoms she had prompted me to test her blood sugar at home, it was way above normal. Her doctor had tested her in the last year but because of the way diabetes works if she’d waited 3 years to be tested she would have been very ill. She was put on medication right away and because of the swiftness of response to the high blood sugar, she responded well to medication.
    Procrastinators are often made fun of and joked about but waiting to check out health issues can be a matter of life or death!

    • Hi Natalie,
      I agree with you that as we age we should be asking for a simple blood sugar test to check for Type 2 Diabetes; though the recommendation is every 3 years starting at 45, you probably should have this test more frequently if you have gained weight and there is a history of a family member with diabetes. Glad that you continue to be a great health advocate for yourself. Beth

  3. Beth I wish I could have as much faith in doctors and in the medical profession as you clearly have. I have friends on cocktails of drugs for all sorts of ‘health’ reasons. I have also lost a friend who was on a myriad of pain-killing drugs, to a brain tumour. Another friend with MS spends $200 per week on medication. That’s killing her on two levels, one being the drugs, and the other being her inability to afford the drugs. She now can hardly afford food. How can she ever get well? Another two friends have breast cancer. Enough said on that one!

    When I donate blood or plasma, they ask me what medications I am on. I tell them none and that I plan to keep it that way. They laugh. I don’t.

    You know my grandparents on both sides didn’t have check ups, they didn’t eat processed foods and they died in their nineties. It’s time we looked at the food industry to find out why people are getting sick. Challenge them and then avoid them if you can, for they have no concerns about your health or mine. Check the dangerous excititoxins that they put in their offerings, by the way. We have a generation of children existing on this kind of food. They are predicted not to outlive their parents. How sad is that!

    For my money, getting back to basics, shunning anything that is not organic, cooking instead of buying processed foods, growing fruit and vegetables, will have us all being well right into our latter years.

    I don’t mean this to sound like a gripe against what you have written Beth. Nurses do a fabulous job, but the health industry is in crisis. The drug industry is in charge of people’s health and the drug industry mandates to doctors. And yes, I have friends who are doctors! I have shared with them, the views I have.

  4. Dear Maranna,
    I so appreciate your email and much of what you say I agree with. First our food supply has been affected by antibiotic injections in animals and the use of pesticides etc. It’s a wonder any of us have bodies that work as they were intended to. But so many people cannot afford organic foods–though some grow their own which is fantastic. Some people have no time to cook more carefully. Some people are ignorant about what food is– ie work done by Jamie Oliver. Historically doctors were not schooled in nutrition. That is changing, but the change is slow. And bottom line, your genetic code which you have no control over contributes a lot to your overall health. Of course if we don’t raise children with the proper nutrition, gradually we are changing that too.
    I too have friends dying from cancer and fighting cancer, one a 24 year old. But having medical care along side of good nutrition and maintaining a healthy body through exercise are good steps to health. My husband discovered his CLL through a simple blood test. And we’ve been fighting ever since. He’s alive to tell about it. Thanks again, Beth

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