Friday, February 17, 2012

Life Saving Tests

Today’s health and beauty buzz is on the tests we should have in order to prevent or treat potentially deadly illnesses. 
February is American Heart Month and it is also the month when I go to my own doctors. There has been a decline in the general health of Americans since the recession began.
Depending on age, it is recommended that both women and men have an annual physical exam performed by their primary care physician. Your doctor will advise you as to the frequency of your check ups.
·        During the exam, your weight will probably be recorded. Being overweight is the precursor to a number of diseases.
·        Blood pressure taken- Untreated high blood pressure affects your heart, brain and kidneys.
·        Blood work may include: –
1.      Lipid profile. Cholesterol- High LDL or low HDL places you at risk for heart attack and stroke.
2.      Blood sugar-This is a fasting blood test. Diabetes causes heart disease, blindness and kidney failure. People who are obese, have high cholesterol or family history of diabetes are at greater risk.
3.      Thyroid- The thyroid gland is generally checked during your physical. If you have no family history or problems, then screening is usually recommended at age 30.  If you do have a family history, then screening may begin at age 20. The THS test measures the amount of thyroid hormone present in your blood. In late 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists narrowed the range of what is considered the “norm”. The new normal now being 0.3 to 3.0- Most labs in the USA are still using the old range as their reference.  Tell your doctor about family history, unexplained weight loss or gain and fatigue.
·        The dreaded rectal exam.  Women usually have this exam at the same time as their gynie check up. It may help the physician to better check the uterus and the ovaries.  The rectal exam in men is used to help check out the prostate and aid in early detection of cancer. Average screening age for men is around 50. If there is a family history of cancer then screening might be recommended at age 40.  This exam can also detect hemorrhoids, growths and rectal cancer allowing for further tests to be ordered.
·        Point out and ask your doctor to check out any moles or suspicious spots on your skin.
·        Your heart will generally be checked for heart murmurs or irregular heart beat. 64% of woman who die from heart attacks have had no previous symptoms. 1 in 3 deaths are from heart disease. Discuss shortness of breath, pain in your chest or feeling easily fatigued.
·        Keep your immunizations up to date. Discuss annual flu shot, tetanus booster (every 10 years), and pneumococcal vaccine given to high risk or elderly patients. Shingles vaccine is available and reduces the risk of shingles by about 50%. There are many contraindications so be sure to discuss carefully with your doctor.
·        Ask when you should have a colonoscopy. Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers and yet the most preventable.  Doctors generally advise a first colonoscopy at age 50 unless a parent or sibling was diagnosed with polyps or colon cancer before age 50.  In that case you are at higher risk and your doctor may suggest having a colonoscopy 10 years prior to the age that your family member was diagnosed.  Testing is generally repeated every 5 years. If no problems are found and you have no family history, testing may be done every 10 years at your doctor’s discretion.
·        Vision should be checked every 2 years from age 40 to 65 and then annually.  Have exams before age 40 if glaucoma runs in your family or if you are at high risk.
                                                        Tests for Women.  
·        Mammograms and breast exams-   According to the Susan G. Komen organization, a woman dies of breast cancer every 74 seconds.
The American Cancer Society recommends that starting at age 20; women should have a manual breast exam. This is usually done by your gynecologist.  They recommend that women ages 40 to 79 have an annual mammogram. Breast cancer risk increases with age. Women, who are at higher risk due to family history, should begin at an earlier age. There has been some controversy that  health insurances only cover mammograms every 2nd year up until age 50. You should follow the advice of your physician.
Types of Mammograms:-
1.      Screening mammograms are done on women with no symptoms of breast cancer. These are usually 2 x-ray images of each breast.
2.      Diagnostic mammograms are done when there is a symptom such as a lump. Many more pictures are taken of the breast tissue.
If the mammogram picks up an abnormality, you may be asked to have an ultrasound of the breast. This can determine whether the lump is a solid mass or if a biopsy is necessary.
Mammograms are a safe, low dose x-ray and along with a clinical breast exam is the best way for early detection.
If you see or feel a lump, go immediately to your doctor.
False positives can happen. I personally have been called back for an ultrasound screening due to the density of the breast tissue.
Tips for a more comfortable Mammogram-
1.      Schedule appointment for right after your period. Breasts are tender the week prior to menstruation.
2.      Wear a skirt, shorts or pants so you only need remove your top.
3.      Don’t use powder, deodorant, perfume or lotion under your arms or near your breasts.
·        Pelvic exams and pap smears:- HPV(human pappilloma virus) affects both men and women. Whist it is estimated that 75% of people will be infected with the virus in their lifetime, for the most part it will clear on its own. When it does not, HPV is the primary risk factor for cervical and vaginal cancer.
 Each year approximately 530,000 women worldwide are diagnosed with cervical cancer. In the USA 4,000- women die from it yearly.
 HPV  has been linked to genital warts, anal, penile and throat cancer in men.  
Women should consult with their doctor as to how often screening is necessary.  The ACOG guidelines suggest that screening should begin at age 21.  Women ages 21 to 30 years of age, be tested every 2 years. Women 30 years and older who have had normal paps for 3 years in a row, may be told to be tested every 3 years. Testing is at your doctor’s discretion with your family history taken into consideration.
Best time to have a pap is between 10 and 20 days after the first day of your last period. Do not use any internal preparations for 2 days prior to testing (unless directed by your doctor) as this may hide abnormal cells.

Many girls are being vaccinated against the HPV.  “Gardasil” is for females and males ages 9 – 26. It is given in a series of 3 shots. Gardasil works best if given before there is any contact with the HPV virus and so it is recommended before sexual contact. Only your doctor can recommend whether you or your child should be vaccinated.
·        Bone density test- Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect 44 million Americans according to the N.O.F.  Women are 4 times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Your doctor will help you decide what age you should have a bone density test.  It is a non invasive test taking about 10 minutes. The patient is fully clothed and exposed to a small amount of radiation.
                                                       Tests to do at home:-
   1.      Check out your skin for any changes in moles or any new suspicious spots.
   2.      Self breast exam
                                                  Heart Health Tips:-
   1.  Eat plenty of antioxidants- all the berries, pomegranates, tomatoes and spinach are some- these can help prevent  build up of plaque in the arteries.
       Potassium rich fruits such as oranges and bananas help lower blood pressure.
   2. Omega 3 fatty acids- Found in salmon, sardines and trout- helps lowers blood pressure and triglycerides.
   3. The American heart association suggest 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. This can be walking.
   4. Cut out smoking- Risk of heart disease is 2 to 4 times higher in smokers.
   5. Cut down on the saturated fats- These elevate the bad cholesterol. Found in butter, animal fat and whole fat dairy products.
      Cut down on the trans fats- These raise the bad cholesterol and also lower the good cholesterol- Found in margarine,other shortenings and fried foods as well as many others. Check the labels of products for content. 

  •     Tips of the day: -
  •  Ask your doctor for copies of all of your test results and keep your records carefully in a file. 
  • Have blood work done prior to appointment so you can discuss your results during your consultation.
  • Don’t be intimidated. Ask plenty of questions, get second opinions and be your own health advocate.
  • Don't self diagnose.
                                        Stay healthy, happy and safe.
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