Keeping Healthy: Six Safeguards for Men and Women

Take control of your health. There are six things men and women can do to help prevent medical problems and stay healthy as they age:

  • Get tested regularly for serious medical problems like high cholesterol or diabetes
  • Take preventative medicines like aspirin to help avoid heart disease
  • Protect yourself by getting vaccinations
  • Exercise at least 2 1/2 hours per week
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking

Consult with your physician for more information about healthy living and what you can do to prevent health problems. Being proactive with your health could save your life.

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There aren't many guarantees in life. But here's something that comes close: Certain safeguards can help you stay as healthy as possible. Six especially important ones are these:

Get screened. Testing can detect serious medical problems before they cause symptoms, when treatment is often most effective. Key screenings include tests for:

  • High cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. Starting at age 20, this test is necessary if you use tobacco products, are obese, or have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or blocked arteries. Testing is also advised at this age if a man in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a woman had one before age 60. Otherwise, ask your doctor when you should start testing.
  • High blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every two years.
  • Diabetes, which can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves and more. Get screened if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 mm Hg or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.
  • Colorectal cancer. Most adults should start testing at age 50. Several tests can find this cancer, so ask your doctor which is best for you.
  • If you're a woman, ask your doctor when and how often you should be screened for breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis.
  • If you're a man between ages 65 and 75 and have ever been a smoker, talk to your doctor about being screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Consider preventive medicine. If you're a man 45 or older, ask your doctor if you should use aspirin to help prevent heart disease. If you're a woman 55 or older, ask if you should take aspirin to avoid a stroke.

Roll up your sleeve. Protect yourself from potentially life-threatening complications of the flu by getting a yearly flu shot. Also ask your doctor what other vaccinations you might needsuch as a pneumonia shot if you're 65 or older.

Move more. Do your best to be active for at least 2 1/2 hours every week. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and strengthen your muscles.

Know the risks of drinking alcohol. If there's any chance that alcohol may be hurting your health, ask your doctor for help.

Don't smoke. If you've tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past, don't be discouraged. It often takes several attempts to quit for good.

If you have any concerns about your healthnot just those mentioned heretalk with your doctor.

Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services