The gift you can give yourself — and by extension the ones who love and care for you — is the assurance that you’re watching your health through annual checkups.
Bravo to you if your yearly exam is behind you, but get going now in making appointments in the new year as needed.
Men and women differ, of course, but both need a yearly physical examination and blood test. This is a time to discuss your medical history and lifestyle with your doctor or physician’s assistant; a time to get on top of any concerns that have arisen since your last exam.
Women and men need to have their diabetes risk assessed, as well as their eyes if they have a family history of glaucoma.
Women need to zero in on cardiovascular health, bone density, breast and bowel cancer and sexual and reproductive health.
Men need checks on cholesterol, blood pressure, prostate and colorectal cancer and sexual health.
Age makes a difference, so research a bit what might apply to you. This website out of Columbia University Irving Medical Center is comprehensive (www.columbianps.org/healthy-life-blog/guide-to-annual-health-screenings-by-age). Here are some highlights:
18-to 39-year-old men and women
- Skin screening for lesions or moles that look suspicious (both)
- Depression screening (both)
- Pap smears every three years (women)
- Testicular exam (men)
40-to 64-year-old men and women
- Shingles vaccine — 2 doses separated by 2 to 6 months given at age 50 and older (both)
- Flu shot — annually (both)
- Colorectal screening — age 50 and older unless other risk factors are present (both)
- Lung cancer screening — annually if a past smoker (both)
- Depression screening — mental health assessment (both)
- Mammogram — annually or bi-annually depending on risk factors (women)
- Prostate exam — age 50 and older depending on risk factors (men)
65 years and older men and women
- Fall prevention screening (both)
- High dose flu vaccine (both)
- Osteoporosis screening (both)
Many people get nervous just sitting in a doctor’s office, so you might want to write down these questions ahead of time and record the answers:
- How do I get my results?
- Is this normal?
- Does my family history put me at risk?
- Am I old enough for that?
- Is stress impacting my health?
- How is my weight?
- Are my habits harmful?
- Are my prescriptions still relevant?
- What are my numbers?
- Do I need any additional screenings or tests?
- Do I need any immunizations?
- What’s next?
As for those of you with flexible spending accounts, max out your pre-tax dollars before the end of the benefit year (although some employers allow rollovers). These dollars can be used not only for standard care but also for acupuncture, chiropractic care, mental health, over-the-counter medical supplies and more.
As for limited-purpose flexible spending account (LPFSA), if you have a health savings account (HSA) make sure to use up your LPFSA dollars on vision and dental so you can keep more funds available in your HSA accounts for medical expenses.