Let’s be honest, we’re all about productivity. So who has time to be concerned about their health? But just as you upgrade your computer, your car, your smartphone — your body is no different — you need to keep it updated.
One tool productive people use to get the job done is their calendar. For some men, when it comes to important dates — especially an anniversary — you know it’s critical to add it to the calendar.
When it comes to health screenings, it’s easy to forget. One way to remember to schedule an annual health screening is to mark your calendar a week before or after your birthday to make your appointments.
Here are some health screening benchmarks from the Veterans Health Administration to add to your calendar that will hopefully keep productivity high, so you may celebrate another anniversary. These general recommendations are a good place to start, but many professional medical organizations differ in the specifics of their recommendations, so it is best to consult your doctor to determine the most appropriate screening schedule based on your personal and family medical history.
Also check in advance with your insurance carrier to avoid unexpected expenses; many plans have limitations on coverage.
Every year, regardless of age
Flu vaccine: When people don’t get a flu shot, they can be unproductive and miserable. A flu shot protects you and your workplace from developing severe illness. Plus, you could bring the flu home to your kids or your parents. The reverse is also true – if you are not protected, they can bring it home to you.
Beginning at age 20
Heart disease, diabetes and stroke: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. It cost an estimated $316.6 billion (nearly $1 billion a day) in health care expenses and lost productivity in 2011. Being overweight or obese can lead to heart disease, so checking your weight and knowing your BMI yearly is important. Check your blood pressure every two years, get a diabetes screening every three years, and cholesterol screening every five years.
Skin cancer: The cost of skin cancer treatment is about $8 billion every year in the U.S. Skin cancer is treatable when detected early, but otherwise potentially deadly. Schedule a head-to-toe dermatology exam every three years. Be sure to always protect your skin with sunscreen.
HIV screening: It is recommended that all adults be screened at least once in their lifetime. This is done with a blood test.
40 and older
Mammogram: Mammography is the gold standard for breast imaging—it is the only test that has been proven to significantly reduce the rate of death from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that all women receive annual mammograms beginning at the age of 40, unless otherwise recommended sooner by your doctor.
• Women are encouraged to do a monthly breast self-exam.
• Women should contact their health care provider immediately if they notice a change in their breasts, whether or not they do breast self-exams.
• A complete breast exam should be done by a health care provider every three years for women ages 20-40.
• Women 40 and older should receive a complete breast exam by a health care provider every year.
Eye exam: Have an eye exam every two to four years from age 40 to 54, and every one to three years from ages 55 to 64. If you have vision problems, glaucoma risk, diabetes, or family history of macular degeneration, you may need checks more often.
Beginning at 50
Colorectal cancer: The estimated annual national expenditure for colorectal cancer treatment is $14 billion; inpatient hospital care accounts for 80 percent of this cost. The most common way to screen for colon cancer is with a colonoscopy every 10 years by a gastroenterologist. Colonoscopy can also be a preventive tool by detecting and removing pre-cancerous lesions. There are other screening methods available which can be explained by your doctor. Discuss earlier screenings if you have a family history of the disease or have a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
Lung cancer: Want to save on your health insurance and about $1,000 cash each year? Quit smoking. If you currently smoke or have a 30-pack year history of smoking (number packs per day times the number of years smoked), you may be eligible for a low dose chest CT scan screening for early lung cancer detection.
Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer affects your bottom line in more ways than you think. Each prostate cancer patient had lost productivity of $3,600; while their spouses had $4,000 in lost productivity. That’s a combined national annual lost productivity cost of $8.4 billion. Whether and when to screen for prostate cancer, including digital rectal exam (DRE) and/or prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a matter of debate within the medical community. Consult your physician. If your father, brother or son had prostate cancer before the age of 65 you may be at increased risk. Generally African-American men should be screened starting at age 40.
Beginning at 65
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA): Males with a history of smoking should have a one-time ultrasound of their aorta to screen for AAA.
It’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves. It’s important that you’re your own advocate when it comes to health screenings. Tell your doctor right away if you notice anything unusual or new symptoms arise.
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Dr. Kirk Hewling is a board-certified physician in family medicine who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of medical conditions in patients of all ages.