Take Control of Your Health
To obtain and maintain good health, patients should talk to their doctors freely and make good use of the time they spend with the doctor during office visits.
“It is helpful if they make a list before they come to see me,” says Dr. William P. Whitney III, a family physician in Roanoke for 10 years.
The list should contain the patient’s questions and concerns. Even noting small changes is helpful to the doctor. For example, unexplained weight loss, changes in exercise Tolerance, trouble walking up stairs – are all symptoms of potential problems that help the doctor get a clearer picture of what may be happening in the body.
Regular screening for diseases and conditions becomes even more essential as we age. The most important tests for people over 50 are colon cancer screening (in both men and women), prostate cancer screening for men and breast cancer screening for the women.
“Women should already be getting their mammograms,” says Whitney, “as they get older those become more important.” Also, screening for osteoporosis in women (a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak) should begin at menopause.
Aside from monitoring changes in health and getting the appropriate tests, there are steps anyone can take to make sure that vascular disease (heart disease, stroke) doesn’t catch them unaware. Those actions, according to Doctor Whitney, are:
1. Stop smoking
2. Monitor and control blood pressure
3. Keep tabs on cholesterol levels
4. Maintain at least a moderate level of physical activity
5. Stay within a healthy weight range
“Vascular disease is the most preventable disease that affects people over 50,” says Whitney. The more proactive a person is with regard to their health the more likely they are to catch a problem early enough to do something about it. Don’t put off asking your doctor the questions that could save your life.