Preventive Screenings: A Smart Step for Your Health

By McGill, Natalie; says, Parekh | The Nation's Health, February 2014 | Go to article overview

Preventive Screenings: A Smart Step for Your Health


McGill, Natalie, says, Parekh, The Nation's Health


Living with a condition such as diabetes or heart disease can be difficult.

But there's an easy way to chart a course for better health and possibly avoid such diseases: preventive health screenings and services.

Health professionals administer preventive screenings and services to assess and reduce your risk for diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure.

Making sure you're up to date on preventive services is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy, says Anand Parekh, MD, MPH, deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who focuses on science and medicine.

There are many preventive services all adults should be getting regularly. The most common preventive services for adults fall under three categories: cancer screenings, cardiovascular disease screenings and immunizations.

For cardiovascular health, adults should have a health professional check their blood pressure levels at least every two years and their cholesterol levels at least every five years, according to HHS. These screenings are important because they can be indicators of cardiovascular disease. The earlier a physician sees the levels rise, the earlier you can reverse them with lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet and more exercise. A physician can also let you know whether you need additional screening.

All adults should be screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, or earlier if there's a family history, according to HHS. Getting screened for colorectal cancer, which affects the rectum and colon, is key because it's the second most deadly cancer to affect both women and men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When it comes to immunizations, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot each year. But other immunizations run on different timelines. While you may get vaccinated against bacterial infections, such as tetanus and diphtheria, as a child, you are encouraged to get a booster shot for those illnesses every 10 years as an adult, according to HHS. Seniors age 65 and older should also be vaccinated against pneumonia, as older people are more vulnerable to the respiratory disease.

What screenings are right for you?

There are many preventive screenings geared toward all adults, checklists for which are available online from HHS or from your doctor. But some exams are specifically geared toward certain types of people. …

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