Many changes are on the horizon for health care in the United States. Health care providers, businesses and other organizations now see value in making preventive healthcare screenings more widely available. This is changing the way our society views health care and emphasizes prevention of disease instead of treatment.
So, what are preventive health care screenings and why are they important to your health? How do you make sense of the information from the results of these tests?
Shifting from Treatment to Prevention
A major shift is occurring in the medical world today. It is a shift from focusing on treating medical conditions after they become a major problem to focusing on preventing the condition from occurring. Now more than ever, there are many preventive health care screenings at your fingertips. Some of these tests may look at blood glucose, blood lipids, urine, blood proteins, and for certain cancers. Although regular screenings may seem like a hassle now, taking part in these tests really can make a difference to your health in the future. In combination with good nutrition and physical activity habits, preventive screenings can help you to understand your health and make appropriate lifestyle changes as necessary for a healthier future.
Finding Problems Before They’re a Problem
Regular health exams can help find problems before they start. Instead of waiting until there is a serious problem to seek medical care, take part in health screenings offered by your employer and in the community. Regular health screenings also help in early detection of diseases, giving you the most options and more time to treat the condition. Early detection leads to better outcomes in most cases.
Certain diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes often do not show any signs or symptoms until major complications arise. By regularly having blood pressure tests done and blood glucose levels checked, these conditions could be detected early and major problems could be avoided down the road.
What Do these Tests Really Mean?
So, what exactly can these tests actually tell you about your health? Here are some popular health screenings and explanations of what they are used for.
|Name of Test:||Checks:||Looking for Risks of:|
|Complete Blood Count (CBC)||Hemoglobin, hematocrit, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets||Anemia, infection, inflammation|
|Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP)||Glucose, calcium, proteins, electrolytes||Diabetes, heart disease|
|Urinalysis||Color, clairty, pH, white blood cells, glucose||Dehydration, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, general urinary tract health|
|Blood Pressure||Pressure in the arteries||Hypertension, heart disease|
|Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)||Levels of gamma-glutamyl transferase in relation to levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP)||Bone disease, liver disease|
|Fasting Blood Glucose||How well your body is able to metabolize glucose||Diabetes|
|A1C Hemoglobin||Amount of glycosylated hemoglobin in the blood, how well blood glucose is maintained over a period of 2-3 months||Diabetes|
|Colorectal||Precancerous polyps||Colorectal cancer|
|Mammography||Lumps in the breasts and lymph nodes||Breast cancer|
What to Do If The Results Are Out of Line
If you have your blood pressure taken and the results are high, have it retested again later that day. Sometimes blood pressure may be elevated due to “white coat hypertension,” having just climbed several flights of stairs, or after getting out of a stressful meeting. Also, remember blood pressure can be high due to certain medications you may be taking. If it still remains high after being tested again, consult a health professional to get the care you need. Normal blood pressure readings are around 120/80 mmHg.
For a fasting blood glucose test done to detect diabetes, values below 100 mg/dL are ideal. Values in the range of 100-124 mg/dL may indicate prediabetes. If the results are high, consult a health professional to evaluate whether you may have diabetes and to get help to prevent complications from arising. Remember: if you ate anything before the test, the results are invalid.
Certain Preventive Services May Be Covered
Under new insurance plans, many preventative services are now covered to encourage people to make annual wellness visits. Although not all preventive tests are provided for free, many are. Be sure to check with your provider to see what is covered. The costs associated with preventing disease are often much cheaper than the cost of treating a disease after it occurs. For this reason, many insurance companies find value in preventing health problems before they start.
Things to Remember When Preparing for Preventive Tests
Many tests are more accurate when you have fasted for at least eight hours prior. Be sure to check with your doctor to be sure which tests require you to fast. If a test does require you to fast prior to the test, make sure you remember not put cream or sugar in your tea or coffee that morning, as this could interfere with accurate results. Make sure to drink plenty of water prior to the test. Even taking chewable gummy vitamins may interfere with the results of some tests because they contain sugar. Do not change your diet in preparation for the test. You want this to be an accurate picture of your typical lifestyle and eating habits. Make sure to wear loose-fitting clothing to allow for easy access to areas that need to be examined.
Make Time for Your Health Now
Remember the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Participating in regular health screenings and taking an active role in your own health can help to give you a brighter, and less costly future. Being knowledgeable about your family history of disease and taking action to be screened regularly can help to catch disease early. If you don’t make time for good nutrition, exercise, and health screenings now, chances are you will have to make time for being sick later!