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Spotlight on Walden // Jan 24, 2012

Staying Healthy With Regular Screenings and Checkups

Getting regular checkups, preventive screening tests, and immunizations are among the most important things people can do in their quest to stay healthy. In recognition of January’s National Staying Healthy Month, Dr. Jody Early, certified health educator and undergraduate program director for the School of Health Sciences, offers tips for staying healthy. She shares a few key health screenings adults should get regularly in an effort to maintain proper health and detect diseases early.

Blood Pressure: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called the “silent killer” because, if unchecked, it can lead to heart attack and stroke. Beginning in your 20s, you should check your blood pressure yearly and possibly more often depending on health status, family history, and other factors associated with high blood pressure.

Blood Glucose: Measuring your blood glucose is an important step in monitoring diabetes, a leading cause of death in America. Beginning in your 20s, you should check your blood glucose as part of a yearly exam and CBC (complete blood count) test. The range of normal test results can vary, but generally a test result of 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) or higher indicates pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Body Mass Index (BMI): This test should be conducted yearly starting in childhood to monitor development and risk for obesity. The higher your BMI, the more at risk you are for developing certain diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. A BMI of less than 25 and a waist circumference below 35 inches are considered healthy.

Cholesterol: All adults age 20 and older should have a fasting lipoprotein profile—a test that measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides—once every five years. This test is done after a nine- to 12-hour fast. The ideal level is below 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol.

Physical Exam for Skin Cancer: Beginning in your 20s, you should have a yearly exam for skin cancer. The American Cancer Society makes the following recommendations:

  • Beginning at age 20, men and women should have skin-cancer-related checkups and counseling about sun exposure as part of any periodic health examination.
  • Individuals who have a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam at least annually and perform regular self-exams for new and changing moles.

Teeth Cleaning and Dental Checkups: Regular professional teeth cleanings every six months, or as directed by your dentist, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. Regular dental checkups can help to ensure that early signs of oral, throat, and cancer and pre-cancerous conditions are identified early.

Mammogram and Clinical Breast Exam: Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women worldwide. It is also one of the most treatable if found early. There is some public debate about when a woman should begin receiving mammograms. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and The American Cancer Society recommend women should have a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40. However, some women may need to begin earlier depending on their family history and risk factors. Women should discuss at what age to get a mammogram with a doctor or health provider. The American Cancer Society recommends that beginning at age 20, women should receive a clinical breast exam every three years and every year after age 40.