Preventive health care

The most important part of preventive health care is maintaining good health habits. This includes:

  • Daily exercise  
  • Weight control  
  • Proper nutrition  
  • Avoidance of Smoking and drug abuse  
  • Abstinence from or moderation of alcohol use  
  • Proper control of any diseases or disorders (such as High blood pressure, Diabetes, or elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood)

In addition to these habits, there are some other professional services that may prove worthwhile in either preventing or at least minimizing disease.

1. Periodic screening of adults for specific problems is important and recommended as follows:

  • Pap smear - Cervical cancer screening       o Sexually active female adolescents and women over age 20 (regardless of sexual activity) should have an annual pap smear. After 3 negative, consecutive, annual Pap smear tests, women who are celibate (not sexually active) or monogamous (have only one partner) and younger than 35 to 40 years of age may decrease Pap smear testing to every 2 to 3 years.       o Women over the age of 40, women with multiple sexual partners, and women who take oral contraceptives should have an annual pap smear.       o Women with a medical history of Human papilloma virus (HPV) (Genital Warts) should have a Pap smear every 6 months.  
  • Breast self examination (BSE) should be taught during adolescence and continued on a monthly basis throughout a woman’s life.  
  • mammography - radiologic (X-ray) evaluation of the breast tissue       o A baseline mammogram is recommended for women at age 40.       o Repeat mammograms every 2 years for women between 40 and 50 years old.       o An annual mammogram is recommended for women over 50.       o The mammogram may be done at earlier age or at more frequent intervals, at any age, if problems are suspected or the woman is at increased risk (such as a first-degree relative with Breast cancer).  
  • Testicular self examination (TSE) should be taught during adolescence and continued on a monthly basis throughout a man’s life.  
  • Prostate cancer screening       o Should be evaluated by annual digital rectal examination for men over 40.       o PSA (prostate specific antigen) may also be used as a test to screen for Prostate cancer, but it is not specific and may indicate benign growth of the prostate (benign prostatic hypertrophy) as a man gets older. Screening may begin earlier if there is a strong family history.  
  • Cholesterol screening       o A baseline total cholesterol measurement, as well as a measurement of bad (LDL) and good cholesterol (HDL), should be obtained for all adults between 18 and 20 years of age; then, if normal, the test should be repeated every 5 years. Individuals at higher risk, including children with a strong family history of hyperlipidemia, may be screened earlier and at more frequent intervals.  
  • Colon cancer screening       o A stool guaiac or other test for occult (hidden) blood in the stool should be done every year after age 50 (or sooner if there is a family history of Colon cancer).       o A flexible sigmoidoscopy is recommended every 3 years after age 50 (earlier or at more frequent intervals for individuals at higher risk); colonoscopy, which is probably a better screening test than flexible sigmoidoscopy need only be repeated every 5-10 years if normal.  
  • Blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked annually.  
  • Weight: Check weight annually unless experiencing notable Weight losses/gains.  
  • Dental care: Visit the dentist routinely (every 6 months or so) for dental examinations and cleaning.

2. Many diseases can be effectively treated when detected early. See your primary health care provider right away if:

  • A lump or persistent lesion appears on your body  
  • You have unexplained Weight loss  
  • You have a prolonged fever  
  • A chronic cough develops (or if you begin to cough up blood)  
  • You notice continued body aches/pains

Have a plan for obtaining professional care before the need arises.

3. Keep immunizations up-to-date. Remember that adults should receive periodic boosters for diseases such as tetanus. If you are either older than 65 or have significant heart or lung problems, you should consider receiving a pneumonia vaccine and Influenza vaccine (during the fall/winter season).

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.