What do exercising, routine blood work, and dental checkups have in common?
They’re all part of preventive medicine—the use of proactive measures, such as health screenings, counseling, and maintenance to prevent or uncover serious diseases.
Take a look at this statement from the Centers for Disease Control:
That’s right. Over 100,000 people die each year from diseases and conditions that could have been prevented by routine screenings. And this statistic doesn’t even cover the countless people whose health is in shambles because of serious medical conditions they caught too late.
Preventive medicine also saves millions of dollars annually, because it’s usually cheaper to treat a small health problem instead of a full-blown medical crisis.
In advance of Senior Citizen’s Day next week, and as part of National Immunization Awareness Month, here are the preventive screening and counseling you should take:
Medicare covers the following screenings at prescribed intervals.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: Bulges in the aorta can cause massive internal bleeding if they rupture. The aneurysm often shows no symptoms, and around 80% of people don’t survive a rupture. Medicare covers this screening if you have a family history of it, or you’re a male between 65 and 75 who has smoked in the past.
- Alcohol misuse: If you drink in an unhealthy way, but your bad habits don’t yet reach medical alcoholism, screening can help your doctor identify and treat your misuse. If you find yourself turning to alcohol more and more, talk to you doctor about it. You may be eligible for four counseling sessions a year.
- Bone mass measurements: If you’re a woman at risk of osteoporosis, or anyone with other risk factors for the condition, you should take a bone density test every 24 months.
- Cardiovascular disease: Medicare covers blood tests to check your cholesterol, lipids, and triglyceride levels every five years. Checking these levels can help determine your risk of heart attack or stroke. Everyone should take these tests. You should also visit with your doctor annually to discuss ways to lower your risk of heart disease. Medicare covers this visit, where you’ll check your blood pressure and discuss your diet and other factors.
- Cervical & vaginal cancer: Women should undergo pelvic exams every two years to check for cervical and vaginal cancer, unless they’re at higher risk and need the screening annually.
- Colorectal cancer: This cancer has low survival rates, mainly because it’s usually caught at an advanced stage. Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if caught early enough, so all people over age 50 should be screened. There are a few types of colorectal cancer screening tests, so talk to your doctor about which one you should take and when.
- Depression: Everyone on Medicare may have one depression screening a year. You should go if you’ve been feeling more withdrawn or if your loved ones have commented about your mental state.
- Diabetes: If you have pre-diabetes or you’re at risk of the condition, you should undergo two annual screenings. In addition, newly diagnosed diabetics can take up to 10 hours of diabetes self-management training. In these sessions you learn how to eat healthy, become more active, monitor your blood sugar, and more. These preventive measures are an important part of keeping your risk of complications low. For diabetics and people with kidney disease, Medicare also covers certain nutritionist or dietitian services
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma is progressive damage to your eye’s optic nerve, and some people are at higher risk than others. If you have diabetes, family history, or other risk factors, you can take the test once a year.
- Hepatitis C: This liver infection is a risk for anyone who has used illegal drug injections, or who received a blood transfusion before 1992. Medicare covers a one-time screening test for everyone, and annual checkups for those at higher risk.
- HIV: Medicare covers annual testing up to age 65 for this virus that can lead to AIDS. After 65, you can get this test if you carry a higher risk.
- Lung cancer: If you’re between the ages of 55 and 77 and have a history of smoking, you should take the lung cancer screening annually. Talk to your doctor to find out if you should take the test.
- Mammogram: Women over 40 should take a mammogram—breast cancer screening—once a year. Women under 40 who have a family history of breast, ovarian, or cervical cancer should take the test as well.
- Obesity: Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your weight and how it affects your health. Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, so Medicare will cover behavioral counseling sessions to help you lose weight.
- Prostate cancer: Men over age 50 should get screened for prostate cancer every year. The screening involves two tests: a digital rectal exam and a blood test to measure antigens in your blood.
- Smoking cessation: Stopping smoking is one of the most important preventive measures you can take. Medicare offers up to eight sessions a year with a cessation specialist.
- Vaccines: As we discussed last week, you should stay up to date with your immunizations, especially the annual flu shot. Medicare covers all your recommended vaccines so you can have your best shot at long-term health.
- Yearly preventive visits: You get a full check-up in the first year you get onto Part B. In this visit, you’ll review your medical history and lifestyle with your PCP, and discuss your long-term health and wellness. After that, you should have yearly visits to help you stay healthy and get the most out of life.