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The good news is, Americans agree nearly unanimously on two things. The bad news is, one of those things is potentially dangerous:

  1. It’s vital for children to get routine exams.
  2. Check-ups don’t really matter much after childhood.

Health screenings are crucial not only to gauging kids’ health as they grow, but they also allow health care providers to guide young people on the kinds of foods they should be eating, how much exercise they need, what kind of unhealthy habits to avoid.

But those things are also key to our health as we get older. In fact, some preventive screenings become more important with each passing year. Unfortunately, most of us either don’t know that or don’t take it very seriously.

I’m a doctor, but you don’t have to take my word for it. A recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that very few adults over age 35 – only 8 percent – are getting all the recommended preventive health services that can improve overall health.

The Purpose of Health Care 

Preventing disease is a key purpose of health care. That doesn’t change as we get older. As we age, we have to be more vigilant about preventing disease, handling risk factors for disease and finding disease earlier. Even shots should continue past childhood.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends about 50 different preventive screenings for adults. Talk to your doctor about prevention. If you’re not sure what to say, start by asking about these screenings:

Blood pressure and cholesterol

These can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, maybe even Alzheimer’s disease. High blood pressure and high cholesterol have no warnings, so testing is vital.

Breast, cervical, and colon cancers

Early detection can save your life.

Osteoporosis

X-rays can tell whether you’re prone to brittle bones. There are drugs to prevent breaks.

Obesity

Heart disease and diabetes are just two potential results. Being overweight also raises your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and painful joint problems.

Vaccinations

Shots for flu, shingles, pneumonia, and HPV are can spare you a lot of misery and might even save your life.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) customers do pretty well on some health screenings. 76% of women get a mammogram, and 82% get a BMI measurement to screen for obesity.  In other areas, there is more work to be done. 52% of customers get the flu shot every year; 66% get screened for colon cancer. 

We can all do much better. For the sake of our health and quality of life, we need to get a lot closer to 100%.

Surely, we can all agree on that.

 

Larry Wu, MD and Bradley Yelvington

About Larry Wu, MD and Bradley Yelvington

Larry Wu, MD is a regional medical director for Blue Cross NC and provides consultative services for employee health solutions, prevention, chronic disease, care management, medical expense and utilization management. He is a family physician with over 20 years in clinical practice. Bradley Yelvington is a Senior Program Manager in the Healthcare Program Development and Management area. Bradley holds a masters in healthcare administration and has over 10 years of experience working on preventive care initiatives, programs, and benefits at Blue Cross NC.

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