Ask a Doc: Health Screenings for Adults

Dr. Kyle Kramer answers your questions about adult health screenings and immunizations.

What are the most important health screenings for adults?

Everyone should track weight and blood pressure annually to help prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more.  Other screenings become important based on gender, age and family history.

  • Women age 21 and older should receive an annual Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer.
  • Women in the 40-50 year old range should begin annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer.
  • Starting at age 50, both men and women should have a regular colonoscopy or stool-based test to screen for colon cancer.

However, if there is family history involving any of these cancers, your physician may recommend earlier and/or more frequent screenings.

What immunizations should I have as an adult?

Again, the answer to this question depends on age.

  • Both men and women should receive the HPV vaccine between the ages of 18-26. This vaccine prevents the vast majority of cervical cancer, and can also prevent genital warts.
  • All adults should also receive an annual flu shot.
  • Adults age 18-65 should have a combination tetanus and pertussis booster every 10 years.
  • Adults age 50 and older should start receiving the shingles vaccine.
  • And finally, adults should receive the pneumonia vaccine after age 65.

What lifestyle changes or habits can adults develop to improve their overall health?

  1. It is unusual to see a chronically ill older person who exercises regularly!  Exercise can help prevent heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.  It also improves mental health, weight, and resilience when disease does occur.
  2. Your body performs essential repairs while you are sleeping.  Your health will suffer if you don’t get enough regular sleep.
  3. The foods you consume are your body’s fuel as well as your defense against illness.  Avoid fast foods, processed foods and junk foods because they have no nutritional value.  Try to eat fresh, whole foods for maximum benefit.
  4. Wash your hands. You are constantly picking up germs as you touch things during the day.  Washing your hands before eating helps keep those germs out of your body.
  5. Build a social network. We all need good relationships to enjoy while we are healthy, and to support us when we are ill.  Social connections can help with mental as well as physical health.
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