As our current healthcare climate would remind us, we’ve got to start, if we aren’t already, focusing on our health. A healthy proactive lifestyle will not only keep us around for the long haul, but will give us the optimal chance of keeping viruses, sickness, and even cancer at bay. A healthy lifestyle looks like eating nutrient-rich foods, getting more exercise, drinking more water, and being aware of our mental health. While these are all daily changes we can make to ensure our vitality, incorporating regular health screenings with a medical professional is just as, if not more, important.

Health screenings can reduce and potentially eliminate the risks of diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, cardiac diseases, and many more. According to The Diabetes Council, 41,070 Americans died due to breast cancer in 2017. It was found that the death rate due to this disease could have been reduced by as much as 17% if mammography screening had been done.

Even with such serious benefits, most people do not take annual screenings seriously. Feeling hesitant to receive a health screening could result from a variety of reasons: being scared of finding out something serious was wrong, a natural fear of doctors, to thinking a major health concern could never happen to them.

The Importance of Ongoing Screenings
Usually, we can anticipate minor health issues: when you have a runny nose, you know you could be catching the flu, a sore throat mostly means a cough will follow, a fever starts with feeling cold, etc… Unfortunately, most of the more serious illnesses do not have very noticeable symptoms. What results in a potential small-scale issue, turned into a very serious health concern, which could have been prevented earlier with a simple screening.

Our body might be functioning properly, but that doesn’t always reflect our true health status. Individuals may feel the desire to substitute a medical professional screening with an at-home screening, but an at-home has a multitude of reasons for being less effective than a professional health screening.

Annual Screenings
There are many screenings and tests that should be done annually, these may include some or all of the following, depending on your age, family history and lifestyle:

Blood Pressure test
Osteoporosis screening (bone mineral density test)
Breast cancer screening (mammogram)
Cervical Cancer Screening (Pap test)
Cholesterol test
Colorectal Cancer Screening (Colonoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy)
Diabetes screening
HIV test
Lung Cancer

Age Appropriate Screenings
According to Dr. Sarah Cate, a breast surgeon at Mt. Sinai who specializes in patients with genetic mutations, the risks of all kinds of cancer increase with age. This is due to the impairment of the DNA mechanisms over time. Further, she says that there are a few ways to repair the overall mechanism damage with proper sleep, exercise, and mental health. Dr. Cate recommends sleeping seven to eight hours every night. Sleep appears to be an important factor for DNA repair to occur, as well as exercising regularly. It has been found that depression can also speed up the aging process, which is why mental health carries importance but is often ignored.

Different health screenings are recommended for varying age groups, in addition, different health measurements or types of screenings can be recommended, as well. For example, breast cancer screening: for women aged 20 and over, it is recommended that they use breast self-examine kits as frequently as once a month. For women aged 40 and over, mammography is recommended, annually.

Similarly, cervical cancer screening is recommended for women aged 21 until the age of 65, or a maximum of three years after the first sexual encounter.

Consulting Your Physician
Apart from age, as mentioned earlier, your diet, lifestyle, and family history are some of the most influential factors to your potentiality for certain health risks. The best way to ensure you are being screened for the most applicable health screenings is to check with your general physician.

Your regular physician will be most aware of your medical history, and your family’s medical history. According to Dr. Cate, a common misconception that most people have is the notion that a genetic mutation could be more influential when considering the hereditary parental transfer, whether paternal or maternal. However, this is incorrect, for example, breast cancer can also be found in males. If your father’s side of the family has a predisposition to breast cancer, you could, as well. It’s best to let your physician identify any red flags by presenting them with the most accurate picture of you and your family’s health history. It is highly recommended that you disclose any and all health information regarding both paternal and maternal families, regardless of how minute the detail may seem. Your physician will make the most well-informed decision about how to exercise caution and prescribe the best health screenings for you.

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