Healthcare Question of the Month
I’m healthy, do I still need to visit my doctor regularly for physical
Even if you or your spouse is feeling well, it is still important to
visit your doctor regularly to check for potential problems. While the
frequency and thoroughness of these physical exams varies by age, gender
and overall health, it’s likely your doctor may offer preventive
services that include:
Screenings to check your general health and test for diseases
Advice about healthy lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and
Immunizations to protect against diseases
According to Dr. Lynn Stanco, a family practice doctor at the West Allis
Medical Clinic, “I hear people boast that they haven’t seen a doctor in
ten years, and it’s really nothing to brag about. As we age, our
bodies change and some of those changes, such as cholesterol and blood
pressure, may not be evident without a medical examination and lab
work. It truly is an hour once a year that can save your life.”
Based on scientific evidence, the health experts from the U.S.
Preventive Services Task Force have outlined recommendations for both
men and women when it comes to screenings for several conditions:
Obesity: Have your body mass index (BMI)
calculated to screen for obesity, which is linked to high blood
pressure, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and harmful cholesterol.
High Cholesterol: Have your cholesterol checked
regularly starting at age 45 to avoid developing heart disease,
which kills more Americans than all cancers combined. If you are
younger than 45, talk to your doctor if you have other risk
High Blood Pressure: Have your blood pressure
checked at least every two years to determine if you are at risk
for heart attack, stroke or heart disease.
Colorectal Cancer: Have a test for colorectal
cancer starting at 50. Your doctor can help you decide which
test is right for you.
Diabetes: Have a test for diabetes if you
have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Treating this
disease is essential to avoiding serious complications or
Depression: Your emotional health is just as
important as your physical health. Talk to your doctor if you
have felt down, sad or hopeless over the last 2 weeks or have
felt little interest or pleasure in doing things.
Skin Cancer Screening: Perform a self-exam of
your skin every year, but if you are at greater risk for
developing skin cancer, be sure to see your doctor about more
frequent in-office screenings.
Sexually Transmitted Infections: Talk to your
doctor to see whether you should be tested for gonorrhea,
syphilis, chlamydia (especially if you are a woman 25 or younger
and sexually active) or other sexually transmitted diseases.
HIV: You should talk to your doctor if
you have practiced unsafe sexual behaviors or potentially been
exposed to HIV.
Women should have the following additional screenings:
Breast Cancer: Have a mammogram every two years
for women ages 50 to 74, and earlier if you have risk factors
Cervical Cancer: Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3
years if you have ever been sexually active or are between the
ages of 21 and 65.
Osteoporosis: Have a bone density test
beginning at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis or thinning of
the bones, which thins and weakens a person's bones, making them
more porous (less dense) and fragile, and thus more likely to
Because some men who have prostate cancer, the second
deadliest cancer for men, do not have any symptoms, it’s important to
talk to your doctor to determine if regular screening is necessary.
Additionally, men between 65 and 75 years old who have ever smoked
should be screen once for abdominal aortic aneurysm, an
abnormally large or swollen blood vessel in the abdomen that may cause
life-threatening uncontrolled bleeding and, potentially, death.
Healthy Lifestyle Advice
Following these healthy lifestyle tips can keep you feeling fit for
years to come.
Don't smoke. If you do, talk to your doctor for
help quitting. Call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line
at (877) 270-7867 for free personal counseling and support or
call (414) 963-WELL to register for Columbia St. Mary’s
smoking cessation classes.
Be active. Even moderate activity like walking
briskly, swimming and bicycling can improve your health. Start
small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate physical
activity several days a week. Read more about Columbia St.
Mary’s Weigh to Go! exercise classes.
Eat a healthy diet. Be sure your diet consists
of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free/low-fat dairy
products, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Click
here for tips on how to pack a healthy lunch.
Maintain a healthy weight. Balance calories
from foods and beverages with calories you burn off by your
activities. Be sure to check out Columbia St. Mary’s diet
and nutrition classes.
Drink alcohol only in moderation. If you drink
alcohol, have no more than two drinks a day.
“It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about any immunizations
you may need since the vaccines you received as a child may not protect
you for the rest of your life,” says Dr. Stanco.
All adults should have the following vaccines:
Hepatitis B vaccine: Hepatitis B is a serious
disease caused by a virus that can cause lifelong infection,
cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure
Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine: Anyone 18
years of age or older who was born after 1956 should get at
least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they
have had either the vaccines or the diseases.
Tetanus-Diphtheria vaccine: Tetanus (lockjaw)
is an often fatal infectious disease caused by the bacteria
which usually enter the body through a puncture, cut or open
wound. Diphtheria is an acute bacterial infection that usually
strikes the upper respiratory tract.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine: Chickenpox, a
common childhood disease, is usually mild in children. However,
it can lead to serious illness in adults.
Adults 50 or older should have these vaccines as well:
Influenza vaccine: The flu, caused by viruses,
can cause mild to severe illness, and at times death. Older
adults and people with certain health conditions are at higher
risk for serious complications from the flu. All adults age 50
or older should receive a yearly flu shot. The best time to get
a flu shot is late October or early November as flu cases tend
to peak in February. Getting the flu vaccine in October or
November gives your body time to build immunity and protects you
in case outbreaks hit early in your area.
Pneumococcal vaccine: This vaccine helps
prevent the most common type of pneumonia and is recommended for
people age 65 or older. Most people who receive the vaccine at
age 65 or older require this vaccine only once. Younger adults
with certain chronic conditions should also be immunized.
From blood pressure and skin cancer screenings to breast health
awareness and mindful eating tips, Columbia St. Mary’s Hospitals offer
essential tools to keep you feeling well. Check
out our latest events and classes.