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Include "Good Health" On Your Training Checklist

Prior to beginning marathon training, Saquib Hamid, MD, a family practice physician with Cigna, recommends a routine physical exam and stress test. Tell your doctor if you're aware of a family history of disease or think you may be at high-risk for a particular condition.

"...taking proactive steps and inquiring about preventive measures prior to training can ensure you're in good physical health and able to participate in a high endurance activity like a marathon," says Dr. Hamid. "Preventive care, early detection, and early intervention are really the best medicine."

A basic checklist of screening recommendations is provided below (check with your health plan for your complete coverage policy). Based on your history, your health care provider may recommend changes.

  • 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 or as your physician advises.
  • 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 people 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.
  • Well-woman exam, which includes clinical breast exam (and annual mammogram for women over 40 and those considered high-risk for breast cancer), pelvic exam and pap smear.
  • Hearing and vision screening for people ages 65 and older or as your physician advises.

For more information about Cigna, please visit www.cigna.com

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that, on average, approximately 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications. This year, for the first time, the CDC is recommending that everyone over six months of age get a flu shot.

"In addition to hand washing, eating right, and getting enough sleep, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine," said Shireen Wrigley, a nurse practitioner with Cigna. "This year's vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research suggests will be most common, including the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season."

For folks who might have concerns that a flu shot will impact their marathon training, Wrigley says there is no reason the vaccine should make you feel tired or sluggish. "There is a myth that you can get the flu after receiving the vaccine and that is absolutely not true," she says. "The vaccine should have no effect on running performance."

Wrigley also recommends getting the vaccine several weeks prior to the race. "Some people experience soreness, bleeding and pain at the injection site that should dissipate after a few days," she said. "It's also important to remember that the vaccine takes about two weeks before you are fully protected."

In addition to getting vaccinated, there are several things you can do to stay healthy during flu season:

  • Cover your cough. It is important to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; throw the tissue away immediately after you use it.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If you are not near water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure to get one that is 60 to 95 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

"Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue," said Wrigley. "Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever."

If you do experience flu-like symptoms, seek medical care, especially if you are at high risk for complications. Your health care provider may give you antiviral medication to ease the severity of the flu. Beyond seeing a medical professional or going to the hospital if you need to, stop training, stay home and rest.

"The flu can take a lot out of you, so it may take a several days post-recovery to get back to where you were in terms of your marathon training," Wrigley said. "Staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest will be critical in helping you get back on your feet again."

Take the following steps to avoid infecting others:

  • Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won't make them sick.
  • Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store.
  • The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

For more information about this year's flu season visit www.cdc.gov. For more information about Cigna, visit www.cigna.com.

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