Preventive Steps for a Long and Healthy Life
- Avoid driving, swimming, boating, etc. under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Floss and brush with fluoride toothpaste daily.
- Always wear lap and shoulder belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle.
- Always wear a helmet when rollerblading, or riding a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV).
- Install and maintain smoke detectors in your home.
- Make sure firearms are locked and safely stored away.
- Limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet; emphasize fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
- If you have high cholesterol, other known risk factors for heart disease or diet-related chronic conditions, follow the dietary recommendations provided by your physician.
- If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about losing weight to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and other diseases.
- If you smoke, quit smoking to reduce your risk of irreversible lung damage, cancer and heart disease. Even if you have been smoking for many years, you can still reduce your risk of disease.
- Get regular exercise. Ask your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
- Consider taking CPR training, if you a parent or caretaker.
- For men 45-79 years old, talk to your doctor about the potential harms and benefits of using aspirin for the prevention of heart disease to find out what is right for you.
- For men 65 and older, Ask your doctor about things you can do to reduce your risk of falling — getting regular exercise (particularly training to improve balance), engaging in safety-related skills and behaviors, and removing falling hazards at home.
- Make sure each of your doctors knows what medications the others have prescribed for you; this will help prevent harmful drug interactions.
High cholesterol also increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you have other risks for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, your doctor may recommend checking your cholesterol as often as every one to two years. Others may need their cholesterol checked less often.
If your doctor plans to check your cholesterol, be sure to ask if you need to fast (not eat for six to eight hours) before your blood is drawn.
A physical is an ideal opportunity for you to ask questions about your health and for your doctor to recommend ways to remain healthy.
Body Mass Index (BMI).
Obesity increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and some types of cancer. And being overweight increases your risk of becoming obese. Use our BMI calculator to see if you are the right weight for your height. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered “overweight,” whereas a BMI of 30 or more is considered “obese.”
Diabetes is a common condition that greatly increases your risk of other medical problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and circulatory problems. Screening is the best way to detect diabetes, because many adults who develop diabetes will have few if any symptoms. Screening is particularly important for those at high risk of diabetes, including individuals who:
- Are obese
- Have a family history of diabetes
- Are from certain ethnic groups, including African-Americans and Native Americans
- Have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
Unless treated, infection with the hepatitis C virus can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Treatment has become very successful for most people with the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 consider getting a one-time blood test for hepatitis C. In addition, people at high risk should be tested including people that received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, use illicit drugs or have continuous close contact with someone known to be infected with the virus
Abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Aortic aneurysms are “ballooned” blood vessels that can rupture and cause sudden death. Screening with an ultrasound scan may detect an aneurysm while it grows silently, before it ruptures.
Men who smoke or who smoked in the past should have a single screening ultrasound test between the ages of 65 and 75.
High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your readings are higher than 140/90 milligrams of mercury, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes — exercise and diet — and, possibly, medications to bring your blood pressure under better control.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Everyone between the ages of 15 – 65 should have a blood test for HIV. Anti-viral treatment today is extremely successful at keeping the virus in check and preventing progression to AIDS. People at higher than average risk should have periodic HIV blood tests as determined by their doctor.
Individuals who have readings at the high end of the “normal” range should have their blood pressure checked as often as every six to 12 months.
These are a simple and effective way to avoid important infections. In addition to those listed in the table, a number of other immunizations (such as hepatitis B and hepatitis A) are available. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are appropriate for you.
Colon cancer screening.
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men. All men (and women) older than 50 should be screened regularly for colon cancer. Younger men with a family history of colon cancer should also be screened.
There are multiple strategies to screen for colon cancer. Many doctors recommend colonoscopy. Other methods include virtual colonoscopy using a CT scan, fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) or sigmoidoscopy (or a combination of the two). Be sure to discuss these options with your doctor.
Other types of screening
Your doctor may also perform or recommend the following types of screening:
- A complete skin check to find worrisome moles or early skin cancer
- A testicular exam to screen for cancer of the testicles
- A visit with the ophthalmologist or optometrist to screen for eye problems, such as glaucoma
- Blood or urine tests to screen for sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia or HIV, especially if you are at high risk