For people of all ages, staying healthy is a major goal. And while good diet and exercise are key, many people do not realize the role that getting recommended screenings can play in achieving this goal. To learn more about how these screenings can help reduce health risks, Dr. Julie Tishler, Director of Quality in the Division of Internal Medicine and Adult Primary Care at Tufts Medical Center has answered some of the most important questions to help individuals take control of their health.
Q: What screenings does Tufts MC Primary Care recommend for individuals in their 30s? 40s? 50s+?
A: In your 30s tests you should be getting, include checking your blood pressure, weight and possibly a cholesterol test, based on your risk of heart disease. The same basic rules apply in your 40s, but this is also a time that calls for a little more added vigilance. One area you should focus on is checking your skin regularly for changes that may signal cancer or paying a visit to a dermatologist who can tell you whether you need regular screenings. Diabetes is another concern… If you have risk factors for diabetes, it may be a good idea to get your blood sugar levels checked. In your 50s you’ll also want to add a regular colon screening to your list. And in your 60s, you may also need to focus on the health of your bones and should also start thinking about fall risk.
Q: What screenings are most important for women? For men?
A: Women should be getting a pap test once every three years. You doctor may also start regular mammograms for women. For men, it’s a good idea to discuss your family history of diseases and whether you might need to start early screening for prostate cancer. In both genders, colon cancer screening after age 50 is important and often underutilized.
Q: Are annual physical’s really important? What are the risks associated with seeing a doctor only every few years?
A: While some experts have questioned the need for annual physicals, it’s smart to schedule that annual trip to your doctor in this decade and all others. The value of the appointment is not necessarily in the tests that are run… but because it’ an opportunity to talk, to have conversation about your unique health risks and lifestyle choices.
Q: How effective are screenings for preventing or catching conditions like diabetes or heart disease?
A: While these screenings won’t guarantee that you’ll live until your 90s disease free, they are a reasonable starting point to keep your health on track.
Q: Can Tufts MC Primary Care modify a patient’s screenings depending on their risk factors, so they don’t have to go through the whole battery of tests every year?
A: Yes. Your doctor may want to modify them based on your unique risk factors.