When you think of health screenings, what comes to mind? A baby getting check-ups every few months after birth? A teenager needing a sports physical before football starts? An elderly person whose blood sugar needs to be controlled? While all of these are reasons for needing a health screening, the truth is we ALL need them! All of us, at every age. Here’s why.
What are Health Screenings?
Let’s compare this to owning a car. When you first buy a car, it’s in great condition. No dents or dings, no strange noises, and everything runs fine. You notice small imperfections, a scratch here or there, but nothing to worry about. You get periodic oil changes and tune-ups to make sure your car runs as smoothly as possible.
One day you notice a dent that wasn’t there before. How did that get there? After a long road trip, you hear a strange noise that wasn’t there before. Time to get it checked out before something major goes wrong!
Our bodies need those periodic tune-ups too, just like our cars. Going to the doctor annually helps to make sure your body is running on all four cylinders like it should. Charting your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and your blood sugar can provide a baseline so that your doctor can immediately tell when abnormal numbers begin to pop up. It’s much easier to get potential health concerns under control when we catch them early, versus trying to fix them when they are out of hand (or unfortunately, after it’s too late).
Types of Health Screenings
Health Screenings differ according to age, as different ages have varying health needs. Babies have checkups every few months for the first year of life, to monitor weight and height, and to provide immunizations. After the first year, children typically visit their doctor annually for similar checkups. It’s also a great way for parents and doctors to make sure the child is reaching other important milestones, such as physical, social, emotional, and academic skills.
Teenagers’ health screenings also check height and weight, and doctors may monitor onset of puberty. If a student plays sports, he or she may have a sports physical to make sure they are in the best health to play.
Women should have regular pap smears to detect changes that may lead to cervical cancer. Mammograms are another screening for women that usually begin around age 40, but may be recommended earlier based on family health history and risk.
Colonoscopies are one health screening that nobody gets excited about, but can play an important part in early detection of cancer. It’s important to speak with your healthcare provider to determine when a colonoscopy is right for you.
Blood pressure, blood sugar, bone density, and cholesterol screenings are also important to have regularly, based on family history and risk factors. Early detection is key to effective treatment.
What about Men?
Unfortunately, many men feel as if they don’t need to go to the doctor for regular wellness exams. They may not see the benefit of prevention, and may only want to see a doctor if they don’t get well on their own.
But of course all men need to have regular screenings to stay on top of their health. Luckily my own husband had a wellness exam at age 38, thanks to a requirement from his employer’s insurance plan. We now have baseline information on his blood pressure (which tends to run high in his family) and his cholesterol (also a family health concern). This data will be helpful to compare to the numbers he receives when he gets his next exam.
Wellness exams for adults do not necessarily have to happen every year. Until age 50, men can get checkups every 3-4 years. At 50 years old, those checkups should happen annually – just to keep an eye on potential new health concerns.
Want a way to help sway your husband or father to make a wellness appointment? Tell him to do it for his kids. Dad may feel invincible, but he certainly isn’t! And his children definitely want him to hang around for a LONG time.
Need help finding the nearest UCHealth facility for your next appointment? Go to http://uchealth.org/near-me.