Back-to-school and sports physicals are an annual ritual for many families this
time of the year. But while the focus is on students, preventive exams are just
as important for adults, said Dr. Gerald Lofthouse, a family medicine
specialist who treats patients at Adventist
Yet only 21 percent of the adult population undergoes preventive health
examinations every year, according to a 2007 study by the American Medical
“Regular examinations or checkups by a physician is
recommended for all adults to check blood pressure and weight – specifically
body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight – and to make
sure your vaccinations are up to date,” Lofthouse said. “Prevention is one of
the best things we can do to stay healthy.”
High blood pressure – also known as hypertension –
is often referred to as a silent killer because the only way to determine if
you have high blood pressure is to check it regularly, Lofthouse said. Hypertension
and obesity are risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, certain
cancers, osteoarthritis, and diabetes among other diseases.
“Catching diabetes in its early stages can prevent
a patient from getting eye disease or neurological disease,” Lofthouse said.
Other medical tests should be conducted on a
regular schedule over the course of a lifetime. Cholesterol checks are
recommended every five years starting around age 20. The Hemoccult fecal occult
blood test, which can detect hidden blood in stool specimens as an early
indication of colorectal cancer, are recommended annually starting around age
40. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years starting at age 50. Patients also
should undergo periodic vision and hearing tests with increasing frequency as
Women should schedule annual pelvic exams and pap
smears beginning in their teens or 20s; by the time they turn 40, they should
have annual mammograms and regular bone scans. Men, meanwhile, should begin annual
testicle exams in their 20s and annual prostate exams starting at age 50, or at
age 40 if they are African American.
The periodic physical also gives doctors an
opportunity to counsel their patients on such health issues as stopping
smoking, eating a healthy diet and drinking moderately, using seat belts and
having working smoke alarms in their homes.
Even if you haven’t been to the doctor in years,
it’s never too late to start scheduling a periodic physical. That first visit
can go a long way in establishing a relationship between a patient and a
doctor, which means that the patient will know whom to call when they do get
sick, Lofthouse said. It also can empower patients.
“Both men and women should be invested in their
health care, not only for long-term prevention of disease but also so they can
stay healthy for themselves and their loved ones,” he said.
To find a physician and schedule a physical exam,
call (630) 856-7500.
Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist
Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist
Hospital and Adventist La Grange
To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.