- With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, many people forget to stop and take time for themselves. Scheduling important medical screenings can prevent serious illness and perhaps save your life.
"The key to staying healthy is being proactive and inquiring about preventive measures that will enhance your well being," says Dreana Janssen, D.O, family practice with Cigna Medical Group. "If you are aware of a family history of disease or think you may be at high-risk for a particular condition, preventive care, early detection, and early intervention are really the best medicine. And in terms of your health, routine physician visits are well worth any hassle."
As the New Year begins, Janssen suggests this healthy resolution: schedule regularly planned check-ups and tests for every member of the family. Provided below is a basic checklist of screening recommendations. Based on your history, your health care provider may recommend changes.
Adults' Health Checklist:
- A Tetanus-diphtheria (Td) shot every 10 years and a Pneumonia vaccine once for people aged 65 or older and for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease or heart disease. Other immunizations depend on age and occupation such as health care workers and members of the military, as well as on your general health.
- Cholesterol test every five years beginning at age 20 for men and women.
- Blood pressure test every one to two years or as your physician advises.
- Diabetes testing for people ages 45 years or older and every three years for person with a history of gestational diabetes.
- Some type of screening test for colon cancer such as a flexible sigmiodoscopy or colonoscopy at ages 50 and older.
- Pap smears at least every three years for women ages 19-64 if sexually active. Women ages 65 and older may discontinue if prior Pap tests were consistently normal.
- An annual mammogram for women ages 40 and older.
- Hearing and vision screening for people ages 65 and older or as your physician advises.
Children's Health Checklist:
- From birth to age 18, regular immunizations and checkups. A pediatric calendar of check-ups and immunizations can be found at www.cdc.gov and www.aap.org.
"Remember, you are the only one who knows how you feel," says Janssen. "Taking an active and responsible role in your health care is vital to keeping you healthy."
It's no secret that food affects our bodies and impacts how well our organs, such as the heart, liver and kidneys, function. But did you know that certain foods can greatly improve your brain function as well? And the opposite is true too. For example, if you are repeatedly wondering where you've left your keys or always forget what you were about to say, you may not be eating enough brain food.
"For your brain to function, it needs food just like the rest of your body does," said Kim Hohol, R.D., registered dietician with Cigna Medical Group. "But unlike muscle tissue, the brain isn't capable of storing energy; it needs a continuous source of fuel, which it gets by drawing on glucose found in the fluid surrounding the brain cells."
This critical glucose comes from eating regular, balanced meals, which include carbohydrates found in vegetable, fruits, legumes and whole grains along with protein. Other brain-healthy additions to the diet are omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential component of the outer membrane of brain cells.
To keep your brain operating at an optimal state, Hohol recommends making the following foods staples of your daily meal plans:
- Antioxidant-rich fruits including blueberries, strawberries and dried plums, which are excellent sources of glucose and have been shown to help with short-term memory
- Green goodies including spinach, kale and kiwi, which help to maintain good vision along with giving the brain a boost
- Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods including try salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines
- Cooking condiments such as olive oil, canola oil and walnut oil, which are high in "good fat" and low in the dangerous polyunsaturated fat
- Protein-rich eggs or egg whites, which can help enhance memory while minimizing fatigue
"The most important meal of the day is breakfast, which replenishes your brain's glucose supply and gives you healthy kick-start to the day," said Hohol. "Always resist the urge to skip meals, it does your metabolism no favors and also deprives your brain of fuel."
Getting enough rest and plenty of physical activity are additional pieces to the brainpower puzzle. And if mental prowess isn't enough incentive one to eat well and get adequate sleep and exercise, good foods are always to thank for helping improve one's overall mood.
For more information about healthy eating visit www.eatright.org.
There's more to sleeping than simply closing your eyes. Good sleep patterns are restorative to our entire bodies, not to mention our minds. Unfortunately, according to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem. The Foundation reports that about 40 million of these people suffer from a chronic sleep disorders and an additional 20-30 million are affected by intermittent sleep-related problems.
"Forty years ago, American's got an average of two hours more sleep than they do today," said Stanley Bennett, M.D., a medical executive with Cigna Medical Group. "Today, nearly a third of all Americans don't even get seven hours a night!"
According to Dr. Bennett, even occasional sleep problems affect us in a big way. A lack of sleep may result in:
- Poor memory recall and short-term memory loss
- A slower reaction time, leading to a significantly increased risk of accidents at work or on the road
- Hormonal changes that can lead to overeating and/or obesity
- An increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- An altered immune system that increases susceptibility to infections
"While we all suffer from it, stress is one of the biggest enemies of a good night's rest," said Dr. Bennett. "Stress can negatively affect sleep by activating the nervous system and making it difficult to both fall asleep and spend enough time in each stage of sleep, especially the deep, rapid eye movement (REM) stage. While stress may be a fact of life for many of us, reading, meditation, a warm bath or listening to soothing music are excellent ways of letting go of the day's worries before hitting the pillow."
Dr. Bennett also advises getting on a regular sleep routine, even on the weekends, and steering clear of caffeine, nicotine, diet aids, decongestants, cold medicine and alcohol before bed.
"And if you find you need a nap during the day, try to limit it to 30 minutes so as not to disrupt your nighttime sleep pattern," said Dr. Bennett.
For more information about sleep disorders and conditions, please visit the National Sleep Foundation at www.sleepfoundation.org.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, one in every 10 Americans has some degree of hearing loss, with the prevalence increasing as we age. And it's no wonder - between blaring car radios, cell phones, media players, deafening movie theaters and constant ambient background noise, it seems our ears don't stand a chance.
"Some of the most common indicators of hearing loss include ringing, buzzing or roaring sounds in the ears called tinnitus," said Candice Grotsky, Au.D., doctor of audiology with Cigna Medical Group. "A feeling of fullness in the ears, frequently asking for others to repeat themselves, continually increasing TV volume and speaking to others in a raised voice are also potential warning signs. "
The ear is a delicate system and should be treated with care. To aid in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss, Dr. Grotsky offers the following suggestions:
Put the volume of your media player or television when you can hear clearly and comfortably - then keep it at that level on a regular basis; the ears adapt to sound over time and we tend to inch the volume up so what may seem normal can actually be damaging
Ask your audiologist about custom ear buds for your cell phone or media player, which work to reduce the amount of ambient background noise that enters into your ears, making it easier to listen to the device at a much lower level
Wear ear protection if you work in an environment where you are exposed to loud noise, such as an airport or a construction site or when using power tools like a leaf blower or power saw
Get your hearing tested regularly by an audiologist
"Without proper precautions, exposure to extremely loud sounds such as music, guns, construction or airplanes for extended periods of time will almost certainly cause permanent damage to ears and result in hearing loss," said Dr. Grotsky.
According to Dr. Grotsky, those suffering from untreated hearing loss often experience other seemingly unrelated symptoms. These include:
For more information about hearing loss, treatments and prevention, please visit the Hearing Loss Association of America at www.hearingloss.org.
"I'm too sick to go to the doctor." "I'll just give it a few more days - I'll probably get better." "I couldn't have anything too serious." You know that you should go to the doctor for that nagging pain, but you just don't want to go.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over six million American adults suffer from some type of phobia, or a lasting and excessive fear caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that usually poses little or no actual danger. Some of these people suffer from Iatrophobia, or "doctor phobia" - the fear of doctors, medical treatment or needles. Latrophobia is a serious condition that can result in both severe physical and emotional harm.
According to Dean Martin, M.D., family practitioner with Cigna Medical Group, people experience doctor phobia for a number of reasons. "Many people who suffer from doctor phobia have the overwhelming fear that if they visit a doctor, they may receive bad news about their health. On the opposite side of the spectrum, others who suffer from this phobia often assume that their medical symptoms are too trivial, or that they will only waste the doctor's time," said Dr. Martin.
Other reasons that a person may be apprehensive to visit a doctor may include fears such as not understanding their diagnosis, disrobing, discussing personal issues, needles or not having enough time to discuss their problems. Because of these fears, some people come up with excuses that may delay an important doctor's appointment for months or even years.
Continually delaying a visit to the doctor may result in the failure to detect serious medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer. "Without early detection, the risk of long-term medical complications increases as the patient's chances for recovery decrease," said Dr. Martin.
Techniques that can help you overcome your fear of visiting a doctor can involve:
Telling the receptionist your concerns when scheduling an appointment,
Writing down all of your fears about the appointment beforehand,
Bringing a spouse, friend or family member to the appointment for moral support,
Arriving early for the appointment and familiarizing yourself with the office,
Asking questions if you don't understand something,
Asking the doctor to repeat or clarify if you don't understand something, and
Asking a trusted friend for a referral to his or her doctor.
For more information about latrophobia and related phobias, visit the National Institute of Mental Health's web site at www.minh.nih.gov or the Department of Health and Human Services' web site at www.hhs.gov.