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Island Internal Medicine
La Conner Medical Center
Periodic health checkups are an essential part of our approach to preventing disease and treating illnesses at an early stage. Research has shown that by being proactive with our health most diseases may be controlled or even cured. The results of this being an improvement in our quality of life, an increase in survival and longevity, and often times a reduction in individual health care costs.
Below are listed a few of the common health maintenance issues we would like to discuss with you.
Blood Pressure Measurement*
As a general screening, blood pressure should be checked every 1-2 years for everyone over the age of 20. Blood pressure should be checked more frequently if you have high blood pressure or if you are on medications to lower your blood pressure. An elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. Factors that influence high blood pressure are diet, obesity, routine exercise, and family history.
Everyone over the age of 20 should have a cholesterol checked every 5 years, or every 2 years if you are at risk for diabetes or high cholesterol. The screening test does not need to be fasting, but if the screening test reveals elevated cholesterol, then a fasting test should be done. An elevated cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Factors that influence cholesterol level are family history, diet, and routine exercise.
Coronary Heart Disease**
You should discuss whether an EKG or an exercise treadmill test are advisable for you. These tests are especially important if you have risk factors for coronary artery disease (including age over 50, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, family history, male gender, or obesity).
Women over the age of 40 are advised to have yearly mammograms. Women who are at high risk should discuss when to begin mammograms with their provider. High risk women are women with first-degree relatives with a history of breast cancer, women whose first pregnancy occurred after age 30, women with a history of chronic breast disease, women exposed to ionizing radiation, and obese women. A yearly breast exam by a physician should be done on all women starting at age 20. Self breast exams should be done monthly by all women starting at age 20. Your risk for breast cancer continues to increase as you age.
Prostate Colon Cancer**
Men over the age of 50 should discuss prostate cancer screening with their provider. In general, men over age 50 are advised to have a prostate exam every year. Some men who are at higher risk for prostate cancer should begin screening at younger ages. We would also be happy to discuss the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test and it’s current role in prostate cancer screening.
Men and women over the age of 50 should have a yearly stool check for occult blood (blood in the stool that is not visible to the naked eye). They should also have a Colonoscopy at age 50 with repeats at least every 5 – 10 years after that. Most insurance companies (including Medicare) now pay for this screening colonoscopy.
Women who are past menopause are at risk for osteoporosis and subsequent hip and or back fractures. Other risk factors include family history of hip fractures, low body weight, smoking, and taking certain long-term medications, including steroids. You should discuss when to begin testing for osteoporosis with your provider.
Women should begin having pap smears within three years of first sexual intercourse, or by age 21 (whichever occurs first). After age 30, women who have had normal yearly pap smears may decrease testing to once every 2-3 years. Women may choose to stop having pap smears if they have had 3 consecutive normal results (and no abnormals) in the last 10 years after the age of 65.
NOTE: We encourage all of our patients to discuss with their doctor which screening tests for cancer are most appropriate for you as an individual, and how often to perform them.
Every one is encouraged to participate in regular exercise of your choice five days a week. Regular exercise improves physical health as well as emotional health. Walking is of great benefit. You do not need to spend lots of money on exercise equipment to enjoy the benefits of good exercise. If you choose walking as your exercise you should do it for at least one hour per day. If you choose an exercise that is more intense, then less time is required for you to benefit. If your joints hurt too much to walk very much, consider swimming or water walking as a great way to get exercise without stressing your joints. You should aim to get your pulse rate up to 70% of your predicted maximum when you exercise. Your predicted maximum pulse rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. If you have a heart condition or have symptoms of a heart condition you should consult your doctor before undertaking an exercise program.
*American Heart Association Guidelines
** American Cancer Society Guidelines