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The medical tests you need in middle age

September 07, 2000

The medical tests you need in middle age



Despite amazing advances in medical science, no one has come up with a way to prevent aging.

Unless you die, you will get older. If you are between 45 and 64, you are middle-aged, according to the U.S. Census.

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Your body has changed. You can see that by looking in a mirror. But what about the changes you can't see? Are they harmful? How can you keep yourself healthy at this stage of your life?

You know some of the answers: Eat right, exercise, don't smoke. A handful of personal behaviors is linked to the leading causes of death in the United States - heart disease and cancer among them, according to U.S. Clinical Preventive Services Task Force guide. The report, intended for health-care professionals, includes recommendations for clinical practice on interventions - including immunizations and screening tests - to prevent 60 target conditions.

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Early detection has resulted in dramatic reductions in disease and death. Since 1972, age-adjusted mortality from strokes has decreased by more than half - a trend partially attributed to early detection and treatment of high blood pressure.

Cervical cancer mortality has declined by 73 percent since 1950, in part because of early detection made possible by the Pap test, developed in the 1940s by Dr. George Papanicolaou.

Dr. Brian Bonham, a physician with Myersville Internal Medicine and Pediatrics in Myersville, Md., calls the Preventive Services recommendations a "pretty good set of guidelines." These particular guidelines for screening tests are generally less aggressive than those recommended by some medical specialist organizations and voluntary associations.

No tests are perfect, Bonham believes. They are not always accurate, sometimes reporting false-positive results that may lead to recommendations for further tests that are costly, invasive and possibly risky.

Make decisions about screening tests with your physician. Bonham, board-certified in both pediatrics and internal medicine, takes care of people "from cradle to grave." He believes a thorough medical history and physical exam are the best indicators of a person's health.

"Before I've touched the person, I know what's going on," he said.


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