There aren’t many guarantees in life. But here’s something that comes close: Certain safeguards can help you stay as healthy as possible. Six especially important ones are these:
1. Get screened. Testing can detect some serious medical problems before they cause symptoms, when treatment is often most effective. Key screenings include tests for:
- High cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. Starting at age 20, this test is a must if you use tobacco; are obese; or have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or blocked arteries.
Testing is also advised at this age if a man in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a woman had one before age 60. Otherwise, ask your doctor when you should start testing.
-High blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every two years.
- Diabetes, which can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves and more. Get screened if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 mm Hg or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.
- Colorectal cancer. Most adults should start testing at age 50. Several tests can find this cancer, so ask your doctor which is best for you.
If you’re a woman, ask your doctor when and how often you should be screened for breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis.
If you’re a man between ages 65 and 75 and have ever been a smoker, talk to your doctor about being screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
2. Consider preventive medicine. If you’re a man 45 or older, ask your doctor if you should use aspirin to help prevent heart disease. If you’re a woman 55 or older, ask if you should take aspirin to avoid a stroke.
3. Roll up your sleeve. Protect yourself from potentially life-threatening complications of the flu by getting a yearly flu shot.
Also ask your doctor what other vaccinations you might need, such as a pneumonia shot if you’re 65 or older.
4. Move more. Do your best to be active for at least two and a half hourevery week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and strengthen your muscles.
5. Know the risks of drinking alcohol. If there’s any chance that alcohol may be hurting your health, ask your doctor for help.
6. Don’t smoke. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past, don’t be discouraged. It often takes several attempts to quit for good.
If you have any concerns about your health — not just those mentioned here — talk to your doctor. Southeastern Regional Medical Center operates more than a dozen primary care clinics throughout Robeson County as well as in Bladen, Cumberland and Sampson counties. These clinics are staffed with physicians, nurse practitioners and certified physician assistants.
“All of our primary care locations are open to new patients,” said Dean Ruth, director of Southeastern Regional Physician Services. “We get people in very quickly, and we would be happy to serve their health care needs.”
To locate a clinic near you, log on to www.srmc.org and click on “Our Services,” then “Physician Services.”
Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Amanda Crabtree is coordinator of Public Relations for Southeastern Regional Medical Center.