Which medical screenings do doctors recommend?
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
With so many preventative screenings making headlines, it can be overwhelming of what is important and what you need to do.
The most important recommendation I have for patients? See your primary care physician (PCP) annually. The PCP plays the role of not only general practitioner, but they know the screening guidelines process and at what point in life you need them performed. They also know when to refer you to a specialist.
Blood pressure and cholesterol screenings should be done starting at the age of 20 and thereafter, depending on the findings. At age 45, a glucose screening for diabetes should be done as well.
Important cancer screenings include:
Patients often ask me what could happen if they do not get these screenings at the proper time. The answer: if you do not get these tests regularly, the chance of discovering these diseases early or preventing them decreases significantly.
My plug as a cardiologist
An electrocardiogram (EKG) is important in certain situations. Of course, this test depends upon the patient’s cardiovascular risk. Patients who are at low cardiovascular risk (meaning their chance of dying from cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years is less than 10%) do not need routine EKGs. Patients who are at intermediate or high risk of cardiovascular disease (those being above 10% cardiovascular risk at 10 years) may want to have the test performed, as there is no set age guideline. The most important factor is if the patient is having symptoms. If symptoms are present, they definitely need an EKG. If they are asymptomatic, we want to get a baseline EKG. That way, if they present with symptoms in the future we have information for comparison to know if new changes are there.
Here are a few other cardiovascular-related tests I recommend:
Many of my patients don’t know that abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is very important. Patients 60 years of age or older who have a first degree relative with an AAA should be screened with an ultrasound. Patients who are between the ages of 65 and 75, who have ever smoked, should have an ultrasound to screen for AAA, as well.
A newer tool available is calcium scoring. This has not been approved to screen for cardiovascular disease but it does give us some idea about whether or not there is plaque in the heart arteries – and the amount. It helps us decide how aggressive we should be for secondary prevention of heart disease.
As you age…
The most important factor while aging is to be mindful of what is normal for your body. We know that females live longer than males. A large part of that is because females are less likely to ignore symptoms. Males tend to minimize what they feel and not seek medical attention. The earlier you seek medical attention for a symptom, the greater the likelihood of finding and treating a problem.
Scott T. Weslow, MD, is a Board Certified Aurora BayCare cardiologist. He is fellowship trained in cardiology and interventional cardiology. Dr. Weslow has special training in peripheral vascular disease. Therefore in addition to treating heart disease, Dr. Weslow also treats peripheral arterial disease i.e. neck, aorta and legs. Learn more here.