Personal PM



The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains the risks and other information for a wide variety of diseases.


The National Health Information Center lists toll-free numbers for health-related information and support. Some organizations use recorded messages; some charge handling fees.

To order printed copies of the list, write the ODPHP Communication Support Center, P.O. Box 37366, Washington, DC 20013-7366 or fax (301)468-3028.

Years ago a doctor warned James Sammons, who gets annual screenings, that a heart attack was likely. “I am glad that I was prepared for it,” says Sammons, who survived the heart attack six years ago. Now, at 70, he drives for Evergreen Transportation in Alabama.

If you’re not that attentive to your health and you don’t have a general practitioner, consider walk-in care clinics. The typical clinic visit can range from $50 to $100, and the labs will charge individually for tests, which can range from $12 for a cholesterol test to more than $800 for a colonoscopy.

Since you have to get your medical card updated every two years, at the very least schedule screenings at that time. However, depending on your age and the health history of you and your family, your doctor may recommend a more frequent schedule.

BLOOD PRESSURE/HYPERTENSION. Every two years, more frequently after age 50. The longer high blood pressure goes untreated, the higher your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage.

CHOLESTEROL. Starting in your 20s, every five years if levels are regular. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer among U.S. men. Test can distinguish between bad and good types of cholesterol.

BLOOD SUGAR. Start about age 45, then every three years if normal, sooner and more frequently if you have family history. This checks for high glucose level, which indicates diabetes. You should also get tested if you have excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fatigue or slow-healing cuts or bruises.

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COLON. After age 50, 40 if in family history, then certain tests every year. If there is a history of colorectal cancer in your family, your risk dramatically increases. You should have a fecal occult blood test annually or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. Other tests are the colon X-ray, colonoscopy and digital rectal exams.

PROSTATE. Every year after 50, 40 if high risk. A rectal exam can detect prostate enlargement or cancer. Prostate cancer is the leading cancer among U.S. men. An enlarged prostate is common among older men, but noncancerous.

SKIN. Every two to three years before 50, every year after. Moles that are irregularly shaped, have color variances, aren’t symmetrical, are larger than a pencil eraser or that are changing in size or color could signify skin cancer. When detected early, it’s usually curable.

EYES. Every two to four years. At 65 and older, every one to two years. The test detects glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Diabetics should be tested annually.

URINE. Every five years, beginning at 20. Analysis can reveal problems including diabetes, infection, tumor or problems with your kidney, bladder or liver.

MOUTH. Once or twice a year. If your dentist spots signs of gum disease or mouth cancer, for which tobacco users are at high risk, he’ll refer you to an oral specialist.

Preventive maintenance works for your truck. It can work for you, too, if you make it a priority.

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