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11 tips from 2011 for a Healthier 2012

11 tips from 2011 for a Healthier 2012

Keeping up with new developments is a good idea, but it is even more important not to overlook the many tests and screenings already available to improve our health and the quality of our lives. Here are some available tips for a healthier and happier new year.

1. Height and weight
We lose an average of 0.4 inches in height every decade after age 40, and even more after age 70. Most of this loss is a normal effect of drying and compression in the discs between the vertebrae, but sometimes it's caused by vertebral compression fractures that may be the first sign of osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation suggests bone density testing if you lose more than one-half inch in a year or are now more than 1.5 inches shorter than you were when you reached your greatest height.
Weight is even more important. Unintended weight loss can be a sign of serious illness. Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area, raises your risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Body mass index (BMI), a measure of your weight in relation to height, indicates whether you're overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29) — or obese, meaning a BMI of 30 or more. Measure your waist circumference (at navel level) for signs of excess fat within your abdominal cavity; a waist over 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men boosts risk even if BMI is normal.



2.  Fracture risk
Osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and fragility of the skeleton, can lead to hip and other fractures with minimal impact. Bone mineral density (BMD) declines with age, generally at a quicker pace in the years just following menopause. Dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) testing uses a small amount of radiation to measure BMD in the hip and spine.
A baseline DXA of the spine and hip should be done  in women ages 65 and older, earlier in women with one or more risk factors (steroid use, family history, previous fracture, early menopause, smoking, and being underweight).


3. Blood pressure
Today, a level of 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic pressure — or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic pressure — is termed prehypertension and regarded as a risk factor for heart disease. Blood pressure naturally rises with age, but there is growing recognition that this increase should be treated with lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
Don't smoke or drink caffeine before a blood pressure measurement. Wear sleeves that make it easy to apply the cuff on bare skin. Sit quietly for a few minutes before testing, and breathe normally during the measurement.


4. Lipid levels
First heart attacks and strokes are often fatal, especially for women, and the risk may depend on the level of fats in your blood. Total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides are easily measured with a blood test called a lipid panel or profile.
A fasting lipid panel is most accurate for triglycerides and LDLs. That means going without food, beverages (except water), and some medications for nine to 12 hours before the test — and without alcoholic drinks for at least 24 hours before.

5. Blood sugar
Type 2 diabetes damages your blood vessels and can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. It becomes more common with age. The key indicator is a high level of glucose in the blood, which can be tested for after you fast for several hours (fasting glucose) or at intervals after you consume a precise quantity of sugar (glucose tolerance test). A newer test, glycated hemoglobin A1c, may be more informative, because it provides a snapshot of average blood sugar levels over the preceding months.
Polycystic ovary disease, diabetes during pregnancy, or delivering a baby weighing 9 pounds or more all increase diabetes risk.


6. Hearing evaluation
About 30% of people ages 65 and over, and 14% of those ages 45 to 65, have some type of hearing loss, which not only can be isolating but also may interfere with cognitive skills.
Let your physician know if you're having a harder time understanding people — or if they have complained about your hearing. Report any changes in hearing, dizziness, unusual sounds that shouldn't be there, and ear pain or discharge.

7. Eye examination
Aging is a risk factor for several sight-robbing conditions, including glaucoma (increased pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve), cataract (clouding of the lens), macular degeneration (the breakdown of cells responsible for central vision), and diabetic retinopathy (which damages the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye). A comprehensive visual exam screens for all these disorders, and should start at age 50 and return as often as your clinician advises. If you've undergone LASIK surgery, pressure readings can be low even when you have glaucoma, and an ophthalmologist should check your optic nerve for signs of damage.

8. Colorectal cancer screening
Everyone over age 50 should be screened for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancers and precancerous growths called polyps can be detected with colonoscopy, an inspection of the entire colon with a viewing tube inserted through the rectum, and abnormal growths can be removed during the same procedure.


9. Breast cancer screening
For women over 50, professionals agree that mammography, a specialized x-ray of compressed breast tissue, helps detect breast cancers at their earliest and most treatable stage. In addition, a breast exam by your physician, may find a lump not visible on x-ray.
If you find a breast lump, tell your doctor, even if you're scheduled for a mammogram soon or have recently had one.


10. Cervical cancer screening
Screening for cervical cancer is a major preventive medicine success story. A Pap smear taken from a swab of the cervix can detect cancerous or precancerous cells, and those cells can be removed.
It's worth mentioning that mortality from this disease is highest in women who've never been screened.

11. Mood and behavior screens
Some valuable health checks come in the form of questions from your clinician. She or he may ask how much sleep you get and how often you exercise. You may also be asked about your mood and your use of alcohol.
Depression can be debilitating and worsen other medical conditions.
If your doctor doesn't ask, speak up anyway if you have concerns about these or other sensitive issues, such as violence in your home or possible exposure to sexually transmitted infections.

اضغط هنا للقراءة باللغة العربية

Edited By: Laila Nour

Source :

Harvard University

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