Getting an annual check-up can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes among other health problems.

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Getting an annual check-up can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes among other health problems.

Taking a proactive stance for personal health

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Keeping up on good health depends not just on checking into the doctor when feeling ill, but it also means maintaining a proactive attitude.

Preventative healthcare is a vital part of staying healthy.

“We definitely encourage everybody to establish care: meaning to come when they are not acutely ill,” said Gisela Garrison, director of the Visiting Nurses Association health center, “This is one of the principles in preventative health care.”

Karla Larsen, community health worker for the VNA, does community outreach to make sure residents of Moffat County can access this sort of preventative healthcare.

“It’s important to go to the doctor once a year at least to do a check-up,” Larsen said.

Just because someone doesn’t have symptoms doesn’t mean their health is a-OK, Garrison said.

“Ideally everyone would come regularly to a doctor or provider for an examination: finding out whether the person has elevated blood pressure, whether the person is pre-diabetic or even diabetic or whether there are other cardiovascular risk factors,” she said.

If people see they are at risk for certain diseases with health screenings, they can address the issue before it becomes a problem.

“Even a fairly young person has a potential for developing high blood pressure. They typically wouldn’t know anything about it either,” Garrison said. “Already the damage is slowly beginning. When he or she can be educated on changing their diet a bit … then the blood pressure goes back to normal and the damage to the blood vessels can stop and in some cases even be reversed.”

The same goes for diabetes, she said. Knowing there’s a potential problem can help people avoid serious health problems.

The rule of thumb is to get a general check-up once a year, Garrison said, but there are plenty of different factors to consider.

Women’s Health — VNA’s 2014 preventative health care guide

Sexually active women, 21 to 61 years old, should get a Pap smear with an HPV test once every three years. Women without breast cancer personal and family health histories should start getting mammograms between 40 and 50 years old — and then they should get mammograms every two years.

The standard time between women’s health check-ups have gotten longer, but that shouldn’t deter women from getting regular exams, Garrison said.

“The pap, however, does not mean she should not come back within a year to address the other issues,” she said.

Men’s Health

Men need to pay special attention to their high blood pressure, Garrison said. They are at higher risk than women for those cardiovascular-related issues.

But, men don’t need to do regular prostate exams until they are over 50, and then, once a year, she said.

Dental Health

According to the Journal of Dental Research, people who are not at risk for gum disease only need to get a teeth cleaning once a year to help prevent tooth loss.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@craigdailypress.com.

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