Advice on health screenings and habits for the New Year

GLENN ELLIS | 1/6/2019, 1:06 p.m.
Staying healthy in the New Year is an important resolution, but many adults tend to bypass preventive exams and screenings ...
Dr. Patricia Back examines Sherri Stone during a yearly check-up at the West End Health Care Center Inc. Carrie Cochran of The Cincinnati Enquirer

Strategies for Well-Being

Staying healthy in the New Year is an important resolution, but many adults tend to bypass preventive exams and screenings that would keep them stronger longer. Just as infants and children need to follow an immunization timetable, adults should also regularly schedule certain medical tests. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to start.

Knowing which tests to get and when to get them can be a challenge, given that screening guidelines are changing frequently, and as concerns grow that overusing such tests might lead to unnecessary procedures.

Health screening tests are an important part of medical care. Screenings can take the form of simple questionnaires, lab tests, radiology exams [e.g., ultrasound, X-ray] or procedures [e.g., stress test].

But just because a test is offered for screening purposes, it doesn’t mean that it is a good screening test. Technical accuracy is necessary but not sufficient for a screening test. A combination of the right test, disease, patient and treatment plan makes up a health screening program.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you put together your list of New Year’s resolutions:

If you don’t check your blood pressure regularly, you won’t know if it’s high or at goal. Checking your blood pressure about two to three times per week can help you notice any changes.

Diabetes tests should be taken if you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, as well as every three years after age 45.

A panel created by the American Diabetes Association recommends that every diabetic over age 50 be tested for peripheral arterial disease – known as PAD – which narrows leg arteries and reduces blood flow. People with diabetes should have their feet examined during regular doctor visits four times a year.

Cholesterol checks should be taken every five years beginning at 20 years of age. Smokers, people with diabetes and those with a family history of heart disease should especially check their cholesterol on a regular basis.

Schedule a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine every 10 years, a flu vaccine every season beginning at six months of age, and a pneumonia vaccine at age 65 – or possibly younger if you have a suppressed immune system or certain long-term health issues.

Colorectal cancer screenings should begin at age 50. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults age 50 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The decision to be screened after age 75 should be made on an individual basis. If you are older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened. People at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer should talk to their doctors about when to begin screening, which test is right for them, and how often to get tested.

Women should begin biennial mammogram screenings at the age of 50, and younger women should ask their health care provider if a mammogram is right for them, based on age, family history, overall health and personal concerns.

Women should have a Pap test every three years if they are sexually active or older than 21.