Millions of people stayed home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the result has been millions of missed health screenings. For example, an April 29, 2021 study published in JAMA Oncology reported that 9.4 million early screenings for breast, colon, and prostate cancer were missed because of the pandemic. Other critical preventive health screenings were missed too, like high blood pressure and cholesterol checks, and the result will be surely be reflected in a life-altering diagnosis for many people in the future. At Envision Medical we want to focus on making health a priority in 2022.
It is never too late to prioritize health screenings and testing. It seems like we have time for everything else — chores, errands, cruising social media, work, attending children’s sports events, parties, etc. As 2022 approaches, your list of New Year’s resolutions should include making your health a priority. You can start by getting preventive and disease-detecting medical screenings and committing to yearly physical exams.
How COVID-19 Impacted Health
It is even more important now because so many people let their physical condition decline after the pandemic began. People gained weight, ate unhealthy comfort foods, or did not follow health care regimens for medical conditions like diabetes, or slid from pre-diabetic to a diabetic state. A number of people developed health issues they are not even aware of yet.
As 2022 approaches us it is important to get back on the health track going into the new year. There are essential health screenings for men and women that can detect people at risk of developing a medical condition or who are in some stage of disease development. There are many different types of tests, and some are basic screenings, such as measuring height, weight, and reflexes. Other tests are more specific in that they focus on particular medical issues like heart disease or colon cancer.
Following is a set of general guidelines for men’s health and women’s health to consider when making health a priority in 2022
Common Ground: Women’s Health and Men’s Health
Some essential routine screenings apply to women and men. These screenings provide benefits like lowering the risk of developing a disease, preventing complications should a medical issue already exist, improving a prognosis, and perhaps simplifying a needed treatment program. Proper screenings are a great way to start making health a priority in 2022.
Following are preventive and diagnostic health screenings that apply to women and men.
Blood Pressure Screening
Beginning at age 20, important heart health screenings include blood pressure checks, fasting lipoprotein profile (cholesterol check), blood glucose, and BMI (body mass index). An ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg, per the American Heart Association. At any time blood pressure increases to 130/89, the diagnosis is likely hypertension or stage one of high blood pressure. As blood pressure increases, more frequent screenings are needed. After age 40, an annual blood pressure check is recommended.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Women and men aged 50 years old should be screened for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy or stool testing. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screening at age 45 if there is a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Regular screening should continue until 75 years old, and then the health care provider and the patient can decide if screening should continue.
A cholesterol check measures total cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol, LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. The test is called a lipid panel. The CDC recommends periodically checking cholesterol levels in children and adolescents. Screening is recommended for a minimum of every five years for people 20 years old or older who have a low risk for cardiovascular disease.
Blood Sugar Screening
Consistently high blood sugar can lead to Type 2 diabetes which is more common in people in their 60-70s. A blood sugar test checks the glucose level in the blood. The blood sugar screening should start at age 45 and be repeated at least every three years.
Focus on Women’s Health
The following screenings are specific to women’s health.
Cervical Cancer Screenings
Women should get a pap smear annually from the ages of 21 to 65 years old. A Pap smear involves swabbing the cervix for cells that are analyzed to detect cancerous or precancerous cells. The CDC recommends starting the Pap tests at the age of 21. If the Pap smear is normal, it is repeated every three years. After the age of 30, the Pap Smear may be combined with an HPV test. A woman who is 65 years old and has had three or more normal test results may not need screening anymore.
Breast Cancer Screening
High-risk women aged 40-49 years old may decide, in consultation with their physician, to begin getting a mammography every two years. All women aged 50-74 years old who have an average risk should be screened with a mammogram annually or every two years.
Bone Density Screening
Women who have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis need a baseline DXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) test before the age of 65. Other women should have a baseline DXA of the spine and hip at the age of 65. A second DXA test is done in two years. The frequency of this test after the second test depends on whether factors are indicating the screening should be done a minimum of every two years.
Focus on Men’s Health
There are two primary health screenings specific to men’s health.
Prostate Cancer Screening
There are two standard tests for prostate cancer screening. One is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is produced by the prostate, so the PSA test measures the PSA level in the blood. A man of average risk would get the first PSA screening at age 50. A man with higher risk would get a screening at age 40. Men aged 55-69 are most likely to get prostate cancer. Prostate cancer screening is done every 2-3 years. The second test is the digital rectal examination (DRE) which involves the physician inserting a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities.
A physical exam of the groin and genitals is completed to check for lumps, shrinking, swelling, or other signs of a medical issue. It is recommended a doctor conduct the exam annually beginning at age 15 and continuing until age 40.
Health Screenings are Critical for Good Health
When people feel well, it is tempting to skip visits to the doctor for health screenings. Unfortunately, many health problems develop slowly. Following a health screenings schedule give people time to make necessary lifestyle changes or get the maximum benefits of recommended physician treatment plans.
Equally important is scheduling the yearly physical. The yearly health checkup not only helps detect developing health conditions; It also gives each person a chance to talk to their health care provider about any health concerns or to ask for advice about things like improving sleep, stress management, diet, and recommended safe exercises. Discussions like these help the health care provider determine the best next step which could include targeted health screenings or a home plan for health improvement.
Preventive health screenings should always be supplemented with good health behaviors. They include getting regular quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, faithfully exercising, managing stress, and getting an annual physical.
Start a healthy new year, and contact us at Envision Medical Group to schedule your physical exam and health screenings. Living your best life depends on taking care of yourself from head to toe.