Many people wait until they are sick or displaying symptoms of disease to go to the doctor, but having annual check-ups and regular health screenings is essential for maintaining good health. Health screenings are tests that help detect potential signs of disease and medical conditions early on—even when symptoms are not yet present. Many health conditions are easier and less expensive to treat when they are discovered earlier in the process, which is why getting regular health screenings is important for living a longer and healthier life.
According to the American Cancer Society, preventive health screenings can find or even prevent approximately half of all new cancer cases. Health screenings are especially helpful to people that have a family history of a particular disease or condition such as diabetes, stroke or a certain type of cancer. If we are aware of our risk factors that predispose us to certain health conditions, then we can make necessary lifestyle changes that will potentially prevent the disease or disorder they may lead to.
Even if you don’t have a family history of disease or other health conditions, other criteria such as age, gender and lifestyle can make a person more prone to certain health issues. As people age, risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase. Women are more susceptible to diseases like breast cancer and cervical cancer, while men are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Lifestyle factors such as tobacco use, diet and physical activity can also have a negative impact on one’s health.
There are many different types of health screenings including cardiac calcium scores, which help calculate your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Chest X-rays show chronic lung conditions, cancer and infection of the lungs, while a chest CT scan detects infection, lung cancer, and is able to see if cancer has spread into the chest from another part of the body. A DEXA scan is another type of health screening that checks a person’s bone mineral density to assess their risk of osteoporosis or fracture.
Depending on your age and other factors, different health screenings are recommended. For instance, the cardiac calcium score is recommended if you are over the age of 40, have a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, or are overweight. A low dose chest CT scan, on the other hand, is recommended if you are over the age of 50, currently smoke, or have smoked in the past 15 years.
To determine what health screenings are recommended for you, talk to your provider or schedule an annual wellness visit. By taking the necessary steps to manage your health, you are lowering your risk of future medical problems, which will contribute to a longer and healthier life.