Number one rule is to avoid extremes: there is no need to climb to a tree dressed in a diaper and eat only nuts for the rest of your life. Neither should we neglect our bodies or plunge into dietary excesses and fight all preventive medicine.

It is difficult to determine what is necessary to preserve our health. But here are some basic guidelines we can all live by.

Perhaps the most important action is to select a primary care physician. This is usually a family medicine doctor or a general internist whom you can communicate with; one who takes a holistic approach to your health maintenance.

In addition, it is very important, I would say critical, that you become aware of what is expected of you as a patient. Usually an informed patient is a healthier patient.

We instruct physicians “first do no harm” and the same applies to patients. You should consider stopping some behaviors and perhaps starting others:

  • If you are smoking cigarettes, stop.
  • If you are chewing tobacco, stop.
  • If you drink more than 2 drinks per day, stop.
  • If you are eating more calories than your body can handle and as result your weight is going up, stop.
  • If you are not eating a balanced diet which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat free milk products; a diet which is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars, start.
  • If you don’t participate in a physical fitness program which includes aerobic exercises and strength training, start.
  • If you think you may suffer from depression, consult your physician.

Vaccinations are not only important for children. Adults should receive an influenza vaccine (flu vaccine) every year. Pneumococcal vaccine should be received by all adults at age 65 (this prevents one of the common causes of pneumonia). The same applies to the herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine and tetanus and diphtheria.

In addition, modern preventive medicine offers screening tests and medications which should be considered by every individual depending on age and gender.

Just to mention some of the highlights ...

For women:
Girls 11 to 12 years old should receive HPV vaccination. Women younger than 26 (arbitrary guideline) should also be considered for HPV vaccination.

Screening for cervical cancer which may include HPV testing is recommended for women between ages 21 and 65.

Women between ages 40 and 74 should consider a mammogram.

Sexually active women should be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis. They should be aware of contraception methods if not considering pregnancy.

Women should be screened for high cholesterol and other problems with lipids especially if they are overweight. The same applies to the screening for diabetes.

After age 50, 75 mg of aspirin daily (baby aspirin) is recommended.

After age 50, women should be considered for colonoscopy.

Osteoporosis screening is recommended for women with history of suspicious fractures and for all women after age 65.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements are highly recommended for postmenopausal women.

For men:
Boys 11 through 21 should be considered for HPV vaccination.

Overweight men and men with high blood pressure should be screened for diabetes.

All men above age 35, or younger if they have high blood pressure, should undergo lipid/cholesterol screening. Most men are screened at age 45 with a cholesterol test.

Above age 50, men should start being screened for colon cancer.

Annual PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) which was highly recommended has been deemed to be unnecessary by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. I must add that many urologists do not agree with this position and continue to recommend screening with PSA. It is best to discuss this issue with your primary care physician.

After age 45 (45 to 79), 75 mg of aspirin daily (baby aspirin) is recommended for men with no history of heart disease or stroke.

Men after age 65 with a history of smoking should be considered for screening (usually an ultrasound) for aortic aneurysm.

This article should not replace your further reading of this subject and especially your consultations with your primary physician. More than a consultation, this should be a continuous dialogue where adjustments to your risk factors and possible preventive methods are discussed, implemented and updated yearly.