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One of my favorite aunts was always very proud that she didn’t have a need to see a physician. By no means for a cold or allergy. Never in fear of an infection or disease. Not even for an annual checkup or vaccination. No, this aunt felt she was strong and healthy, so seeing a doctor wasn’t necessary in her mind. And while she always felt confident for what she strongly believed were well-earned health passes, I was always simply dismayed at her lack of preventative care.

Recently, one of my readers summed it up best with his own personal experience by stating: “even if people feel healthy, they may not be.” This is so very true as I have heard many stories about people who felt they were in the best shape of their lives only to discover they were actually ill. Even my beloved aunt, who felt she was perfectly fine, eventually learned she had advanced Type II Diabetes when taken to a family physician by a concerned family member. She then later sadly passed away from congestive heart failure (CHF) that had also gone undetected but, like her diabetes, could havedetected sooner and treated.

Premature death and disability mainly results from chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, injury, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and arthritis. It makes preventative health that much more vital, but unfortunately many people take their health for granted, especially if they are feeling fine. No aches, no pains, no nagging issues … so why see a doc? While preventive measures can reduce, but not eliminate, the chances of acquiring a disease or illness, early detection screenings and routine wellness exams can help you and your family stay well and one step ahead in the event a health condition does develop.

For those over 40, a health maintenance examination is recommendedevery two years and should include height and weight measurements, Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure reading, cholesterol testing, other necessary screenings, lab tests and vaccine immunizations, plus counseling on health and wellness issues – such as nutrition, physical activity, healthy weight, injury prevention, misuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, sexual behavior, dental health, mental health and second-hand smoke. A tetanus diphtheria booster should be received every 10 years. Additionally, women should receive an annual GYN checkup, complete with a breast exam, pap smear, and mammogram.

Beginning at age 50, an annual colorectal cancer testing is recommended as well as a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) yearly, a flexible sigmoidoscopy and double-contrast barium enema every fifth year, a colonoscopy or CT colonography every 10 years. Men should also receive an annual prostrate exam.

Additional simple ways of preventive measures for good health at any age include: wash your hands, apply sun block, wear a seatbelt, drive the speed limit, exercise regularly, care for your skin, eat a healthy diet, limit alcohol consumption, stop smoking and any recreational drugs, sleep seven to nine hours a night, practice safe sex, keep a positive attitude, reduce stress, and find time to relax in a balanced lifestyle.

Take the time now to be well for a happy long life for you and for your loved ones. Check in with your doc regularly to have all the necessary tests to help prevent health risks down the road and live well.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.