Preventive Healthcare

In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, seeing your doctor regularly for recommended screening tests is a good way to stay healthy. Regular medical checkups are an important preventive health measure. During your periodic checkup, your doctor can detect any medical problems in the early stages so they can be treated promptly. Your doctor uses numerous medical tests and screenings to check for any health problems. Before deciding which tests to order, your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination (see page 86) and will take a medical history, which is a record of every factor that might affect your health. To complete the medical history, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your personal habits, your family health history (see page 80), any medical problems you had in the past, and any symptoms you might be experiencing at present. When answering your doctor's questions, it is important to provide as much information as you can without holding back any relevant facts. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions if you don't understand something he or she has said.

The most common tests performed in men over 40 include the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test for prostate cancer, the fecal occult blood test for colon cancer, and a series of tests that screen for the presence of heart disease or your risk of having it. Such tests may include measuring your blood pressure and the levels of cholesterol in your blood; an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity in your heart; and a stress test, which evaluates the heart's response to physical exercise. If you have a family history of a certain disease that has a strong hereditary component, such as diabetes (see page 365), you also may undergo a screening for that disorder. For example, in the case of diabetes, the doctor would perform a test known as a glucose tolerance test (see page 367).

78 As you get older, you probably will need more tests during your regular

Staying checkups because common disorders such as heart disease and cancer occur more frequently in older people. Use this section of the book to learn about the various tests and screenings your doctor might order so you can become better informed.

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