Sunday, April 12, 2009
Are You Keeping Score?
In so many things we do everyday, we keep measurements. Fuel in the car, temperature outside, doneness of the cake coming out of the oven, where our bank accounts stand, how our investments are doing and on and on. And we know measures are a good way to gauge how things are going. In the workplace we call it keeping metrics.
Whatever you call them, are you keeping score on you...personally? I'll bet if you have kids, you have a little booklet kept in a safe place that provides the dates they got their vaccinations, right? Do you have a little booklet on you that lists when you got your personal health tests done and how you scored? You may not have one. So it is important to know why you should.
But first you have to get the tests done!! For starters, we should all be getting annual physical exams and annual gynecological exams. That's basic FEMALE 101. Tests done in those appointments will give you all of your cholesterol numbers, glucose (sugar), blood pressure, hip to waist ratio, weight and BMI. You can also request that your doctor include hormone level tests (if you are approaching menopause) and a CRP test (C -Reactive Protein) which measures inflammation. Inflammation has become another way to measure risk for heart disease or cancer. Your doctor should know if your insurance typically covers these additional tests. Your gynecologist will do a breast and pelvic exam and do a pap smear.
Other tests we women should have are: baseline mammogram screening at 35 yrs. and annually starting at 40 yrs.; baseline dexascan at 50 yrs. and then as often as your doctor recommends - usually every 5 years or so. Another test is a colonoscopy - again starting at around 50 yrs. and as often as your doctor suggests based on your initial results. A few other very important annual tests are dental and vision.
These are the minimums you should have and there can be others depending on your family history or your own personal history. Don't put them off because you are dealing with another health issue unless your doctor recommends it. And always be sure your doctor gives you all your numbers - not just a postcard that says "all results within normal ranges."
Record them in a small diary that you can make yourself or use the Health Tracker section in the back of my book "Aging Lite: A Baby Boomer's Health Planner for Women." The purpose is to keep track over time and be able to see trends in your health. Is your total cholesterol trending up? Is your bone density trending downwards? If you can see trends, you have time to make lifestyle changes and/or talk to your doctor about whether to take medication (while you are making lifestyle changes).
My friends, we have to pay attention to our own health in addition to those we love. We can't say "I'll do it later...I just don't have the time." Make the time. Early detection is essential in surviving any number of health issues. Keep score, stay alive!