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As we journey through life, our bodies evolve, and with each passing year, it becomes increasingly crucial to be proactive about your health. Dr. Joseph Gibbons has practiced internal medicine for more than 30 years and is currently a physician for First Call Urgent Care and Primary Care in Howard County. He identified and shared information on key health screenings that should not be ignored and can be the key that unlocks better health and longevity. Simply by making these seven regular health screenings a priority, overall well-being increases, and many conditions can be prevented.

He recommends regular blood pressure screenings since high blood pressure can be a silent killer. “Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and even kidney failure if it is left untreated,” he said. Another reason for regular screenings of blood pressure is that a great majority of people do not even realize they have high blood pressure because there are no specific symptoms, but it puts stress on the blood vessels as well as the heart by the narrowing of the vessels and can lead to atherosclerosis.

Colon cancer is second on the list of cancer deaths with only lung cancer deaths outranking it. A colonoscopy screening is recommended beginning at age 45, as it is the gold standard for detection. When caught early, through regular screenings, the survival rate is much greater. For women, preventive care should include a yearly pap smear to screen for cervical cancer and a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. For men, beginning prostate cancer screenings at age 45 (or earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer) is necessary and can be conducted using blood work from a PSA test and an exam. Dr. Gibbons stated that as people age, bone density decreases, and the risk of fractures increases so he recommends a bone density scan. “All it takes is one fracture to one of the long bones, to alter someone’s life forever,” he said.

Health risks are even greater for those who currently or were former smokers. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms are more likely to occur in that population than in nonsmokers and those persons who have never smoked. Screening for this involves an ultrasound. Gibbons says, “Between the ages of 65 and 75, current and former smokers should get this screening since such an aneurysm can be fatal.”

With aging, sometimes depression becomes more apparent during retirement often because lifestyles change during this time period, so a mental health screening is also recommended. A simple survey tool known as the PHQ-9 aims to identify cases, therefore allowing for treatment with a unique treatment plan which can involve therapy and antidepressants, or a combination of both.

Lastly, Dr. Gibbons shared that immunizations should be kept current unless there is a cultural or religious reason to avoid them. He added, “Keeping current on immunizations is a way to prevent serious, sometimes life-threating illnesses.” Prevention and early detection pave the way for a more fulfilling and active life, enabling individuals to cherish their later years with the peace of mind that their well-being is safeguarded.

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