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Medical tests that can save your life

Medical tests that can save your life | 4/16/2018, 2:56 p.m.
Health indicators consistently confirm that African Americans suffer disproportionately from leading diseases, as well as die earlier. In light of ...
A health fair visitor receives a free eye exam and eye health information. The Dallas Examiner

Strategies for Well-Being

Health indicators consistently confirm that African Americans suffer disproportionately from leading diseases, as well as die earlier. In light of this, it is especially important for African Americans to get accustomed to having regular screenings and exams. In doing so, many conditions could be at the least caught earlier, and at best prevented.

It is especially important that African Americans undergo routine medical screening tests. These tests should be routinely performed; others may be necessary if recommended by your physician or if your medical history dictates:

Complete physical

For starters, we should be clear that a complete physical exam is the central aspect of all other routine screenings and exams. These are recommended every five years before age 40, every two years between ages 40 and 60, and annually thereafter.

Blood pressure measurement

High blood pressure – or hypertension – is often called a silent killer because you can have it for years without knowing it. High blood pressure in blacks generally develops at an earlier age than it does in whites. Plus, it’s more likely to lead to serious complications such as stroke or heart attack. Blood pressure is taken as part of a routine physical exam. Between physicals, you may want to test your blood pressure yourself. At least twice a year have your blood pressure checked.

Breast exam for women

African Americans have the highest death rate from breast cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed with a later stage of breast cancer than White women. The most effective way to fight breast cancer is to detect it early. Women who perform regular breast self-exam find 90 percent of all breast masses.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels are measured by taking a small sample of blood from your finger or your arm and are measured as milligrams per deciliter – or mg/dL – of blood. You may want to ask your doctor if you need to fast before your test. Inflammation – or swelling – of the arteries is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease. To see if your arteries are inflamed as a result of atherosclerosis, doctors can test your blood for C-reactive protein – or CRP. The body produces CRP during the general process of inflammation. It is measured with a simple blood test, which can be done at the same time your cholesterol is checked. Test every five years, or more often if you have a history of atherosclerosis or coronary disease. You should look for your total cholesterol levels as well as your high-density lipoprotein – or HDL – and low-density lipoprotein – or LDL – levels.

Dental exam/tooth cleaning

We are seeing more and more the connection between your dental health and your overall health. Diabetes and heart disease in particular have a direct connection. Visit your dentist every six months, more often if periodontal disease is present.

Eye examination

Glaucoma is the common name of a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, causing blind spots in the victim’s visual field. These blind spots usually start in the peripheral vision, but can spread and eventually cause complete blindness in one or both eyes. The American Diabetes Association strongly recommends that all patients with diabetes have annual eye exams. Every one to two years.