STEVE WOLFE'S SEEDS OF WELLNESS: Necessary tests ensure good health
January 28, 2014 10:50 AM

Every January IRMC encourages you to make a commitment to take better care of yourself. This year, in addition to setting annual health goals, we are encouraging you to take action immediately if you have not received a flu shot this season.

Western Pennsylvania has seen a dramatic upturn in flu cases in the past three to four weeks, and it is expected to get worse. Testing has confirmed the same swine flu (H1N1) that was seen in much smaller numbers in 2009. 

It can cause very severe illness and has already claimed lives of otherwise healthy people. Early reports have shown the most severe problems in the middle-age and young-adult populations.

This is a potential life or death issue, and if you have not received the flu vaccination, you are encouraged to do so ASAP.

The flu vaccine this year includes the same H1N1 strain that is causing this year’s epidemic, and it is the best precautionary measure available, although no flu shot provides 100 percent protection. The latest information available shows that only 55 percent of Indiana County residents received the flu vaccination in 2010.

Preventive screenings should also be on everyone’s resolution list this year as well. The old clich´┐ę “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been more true. We have finally seen cancer death rates drop due in large part to early detection.

For the following diseases, the United States Preventive Services Task Force states that there are effective screening tests and that people should get them.

• Colorectal cancer: Men and women 50 years of age or older should get screened for colorectal cancer. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, people should get either a colonoscopy every 10 years or a sigmoidoscopy and a test to detect blood in the stool every five years.

• High blood pressure: Adults ages 18 and older should be screened for high blood pressure, but there is no agreed-upon interval between tests. One influential report recommends screening every two years for people who have blood pressure lower than 130/85 and at more frequent intervals for people with higher baseline readings.

• Lipid disorders: The task force strongly recommends cholesterol testing in men ages 35 years and older and women ages 45 years and older who have heart-disease risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, or a family history of cardiovascular disease.

The task force makes no recommendation for healthy younger adults in the absence of known risk factors for coronary heart disease.

• Breast cancer: Women ages 40 or older should get a mammogram every one to two years.

• Osteoporosis: Women ages 65 and older should be screened routinely for osteoporosis. (Screening should begin at age 60 for women identified as being at increased risk for fractures.) The optimal interval for repeat screening is not clear, according to the task force.

Everyone has made and broken past resolutions, but that does not mean that you won’t succeed this year. Some tips to help you keep this year’s resolution are:

• Just make one or two resolutions. Don’t try to tackle too many things at once. Pick a couple actions that you are really committed to and set a realistic goal.

• Make a plan and write it down. Record what you would like to accomplish and set timelines. Achieving small goals can keep you motivated to keep going. If you want to lose some weight, create a weight loss schedule. A good approach is to evaluate yourself every other week or two weeks.

• Involve family and friends. Tell someone about your resolutions. Family and friends are great resources to support your effort and keep you motivated.

• Forgive yourself. Don’t think you failed if you get off track, just make adjustments to your plan.

• Reward yourself. Don’t forget to congratulate and reward yourself when you reach a goal.

Just changing one thing this year that will increase your quality of health and life can have a big impact. All of us at Indiana Regional Medical Center wish you a safe, healthy, and happy 2014, all year long.

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