Preventive Health Screenings: How Necessary Are They?

Early detection helps prevent problems later

By Barbara Pierce

When was the last time you took your car in for a tire rotation, oil change or a checkup?

Most of us recognize the need for regular maintenance because we know that if we only tended to our cars when there was a leak or a flat tire, we’d be asking for trouble.

While it may seem ridiculous to drive our car without changing the oil for several years, many of us don’t get the preventive screenings or medical testing that are recommended by health care professionals.

Like cars, our bodies don’t function at their optimal if we don’t take preventive measures. For example, if elevated levels of cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure are detected early and treated, the risk of heart attack or stroke is drastically reduced.

“For all adults, preventing disease or catching it early is the best way to keep people healthy,” said Rome Health vice president of physician practices Michael Attilio, family physician at Rome Health Delta Medical Center.

And preventing disease or catching it early reduces overall costs for health care, he added.

Because of COVID-19, many of us have delayed routine health visits. There may be an end in sight for the pandemic, but common conditions—heart attacks, IBS, strokes, cancers and diabetes—are here to stay. The risk for these increases with age, which is why it’s so important to stick to your screenings.

“The right screening test for each patient often varies, based on age, gender and other traits that might put you at risk,” said Attilio.

Our genes put us at an increased risk for certain diseases. With a detailed family history, your health care professional can tailor recommendations for screenings and treatment based on your risks.

Health screenings come in many forms, from those regular skin or mole checks for suspicious moles, to one as complex as a colon cancer screening or questions about your family health history.

Screenings, like the ones from hearing tests Australia, are important because, if you’re at risk for a condition that has few warning signs, screenings show what your risks are, so you can prevent or delay the condition. For example, stroke often has no symptoms, but a carotid artery screening can help identify your risk for a stroke.

Getting recommended screenings is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Depending on your age, sex and medical history, you may need to be screened for:

• Blood pressure: High blood pressure often has no symptoms and increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, etc. Adults older than 50 should be checked once every two years and more often if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke or your blood pressure is above normal.

• Cholesterol: High cholesterol levels cause heart attacks and strokes. A simple blood test measures your levels and should be checked every four to six years, more often if you have heart disease or diabetes.

• Stomach, colon, rectal issues: Colorectal screenings detect and remove precancerous growths before they become a problem. Screenings are recommended every five to 10 years beginning at 45, through 75.

Gum and dental disease can lead to stroke, diabetes or heart disease. Every six months get an exam and cleaning.

• Depression: Untreated, depression increases the risk of suicide, drug or alcohol addiction, relationship or employment issues.

• Diabetes: High blood sugar levels increase the likelihood of diabetes. Uncontrolled, it can lead to several serious conditions. Anyone older than 50 with high blood pressure or who is overweight should be screened every three years.

• Eye conditions (glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration) become more common as we age. When you hit 50, have annual eye exams to catch problems before they develop into something serious.

• Hearing: Hearing loss increases with age; it’s wise to have a hearing testing at age 50 then repeat every three years.

• Lung cancer: Screening reduces the risk of dying from lung cancer. Screening is recommended for people older than 55 with a history of smoking and who currently smoke or quit in the past 15 years.

• Skin cancer: Early detection of skin cancers saves lives and makes treatment easier. Every year, have a skin exam by a dermatologist.

Just for women

Breast cancer: Early detection saves lives. Regular screening with a mammogram, is the most reliable way to find cancers early when they’re most treatable. Women of average risk should start screening every year at age 40; women older than 55 can switch to every other year. Women at high risk should get a breast MRI and a mammogram every year, starting at age 30.

Cervical cancer and HPV: Screening reduces cervical cancer deaths by finding and treating cancers before they’ve spread. Screening is recommended every three years up to age 65.

Just for Men

Prostate cancer: A prostate exam can find cancers early, before they cause symptoms or spread. Starting at age 50, ask your health care provider about the pros and cons of screening.

Most insurance plans cover most screening tests.

Featured image: Rome Health Family physician Michael Attilio recommends screenings for his patients based upon the guidance of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Academy of Family Physicians.