Archive for the ‘General Health’ Category

Quickly Overcome Sleep Deprivation

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Sleep deprivation can make your mind feel sluggish and your body lack energy. Just getting out of bed in the morning can be incredibly difficult, not to mention staying sharp for a morning meeting or getting a workout in during the afternoon. Getting a good night’s sleep does not have to mean taking sleep aids or medication. Simple readjustments to your lifestyle and making sleep a priority can help create a healthy daily rhythm and have profound effects on your quality of sleep.

The Importance of a Sleep Routine
Consistency is one of the keys to sleeping well. Continually changing the time you go to sleep and wake up in the morning can leave your body confused and lead to sleep deprivation. Although you may feel tired, you may still have trouble tuning out and falling asleep. Resetting your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep cycle, by going to bed and waking up at the same times every day can help your body know when it’s time to wind down at the end of a long day.

We place a significant emphasis on bedtime routines for children, but we tend to fall out of those habits as adults. Taking the time to relax before going to bed can help signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Turn down the lights, turn off the television and put away your laptop a few hours before crawling into bed. Don’t participate in stimulating activities right before bed either. Try to stay quiet to set the mood for relaxation, such as taking a warm bath before bed. By having a routine every night, your body and mind can start to switch into sleep mode.

Overcome Your Sleep DeprivationEat Right for the Best Sleep
It may be obvious that you should avoid caffeine in the afternoon and early evening if you want to avoid sleep deprivation, but eating big meals, fatty foods or meals that may cause heartburn can keep you awake too. Other diet factors such as food allergies or sensitivities to dairy or gluten can cause restlessness that affects your sleep.

Drinking too many liquids before bed can leave you with a full bladder that interrupts your sleep. Once you wake up in the middle of the night, it can be difficult to go back to sleep, so it’s beneficial to try to prevent night waking before it occurs. Also keep in mind that although alcohol may make you drowsy, it can cause you to sleep lightly and wake frequently.

Exercise the Body to Stimulate Sleep
Exercising earlier in the day can help you sleep at night. Working out regularly helps relieve the anxiety and stressful thoughts that may keep you awake at night. Outside activity and being exposed to bright light during the day can help reset your circadian rhythm and prevent sleep deprivation. But keep in mind that exercise before bed may cause you to have trouble winding down right away, so make sure to exercise long before you plan on turning in for the night.

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Primrose Oil: Super-Nutrient a Vegetarian Alternative to Fish Oil

Friday, January 6th, 2012

If you don’t like the idea of ingesting any type of animal product, even in supplement form, primrose oil can provide the same benefits as fish oil while allowing you to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. Extracted from the evening primrose, a plant that displays yellow blooms in the evening hours, this oil contains a high percentage of GLA, gamma-linolenic acid, also known as Omega 6 fatty acid.

Don’t I Need Omega 3s?
Your body does need the Omega 3 fatty acids contained in fish oil, but it’s also capable of converting plant-based Omega 6 compounds into Omega 3s. This provides the same health benefits as consuming them directly through either fish or fish oil supplements.

Primrose Oil and FlowerWhat are the Health Benefits of Primrose Oil?
The GLA in evening primrose oil is reported to support brain function, body growth and overall development. It also promotes hair and skin growth, healthy bones, an efficient metabolism and reproductive health. This vegetarian-friendly supplement has also been shown to help treat or manage a number of diseases including:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hypertension

The Future of Primrose Oil
Because of primrose oil’s other benefits, researchers have been looking for new ways to use this vegetarian supplement. So far, it has been found to help with some cancers, especially cerebral gliomas. Primrose oil has shown some promise with skin disorders like atopic dermatitis, mastalgia and some uremic skin disorders.

Sticking with a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean you should ignore the nutrients traditionally provided by animal products.Instead, seek out plant-based alternatives that offer the same health benefits. The omega nutrients are a vital component to your overall health and should not be disregarded just because the most common form comes from animals. Primrose oil is the perfect alternative to the fish oil supplements.

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What Fish Oil is Right for You?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

omega 3 fatty acidFish oil is reported to be a miracle supplement for every ailment under the sun from heart disease to depression. This has resulted in shelves crowded with a variety of products all claiming to be the best. To ease your confusion, here’s a practical guide to fish oil:

What’s so Great About Fish Oil?
The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are composed of DHA and EPA, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Considered essential fatty acids, the human body requires these substances to function, but it can’t produce them on its own. In other words, you must obtain all of your DHA and EPA from your diet or through supplements. Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid that can be obtained from plant-based sources like flaxseeds, nuts, and olive oil. This substance contains a different amino acid called ALA or alpha-linolenic acid. The body can use Omega 6 fatty acids, but they must be converted into DHA and EPA first. Because this process stresses the body, it’s always better to get your daily requirement of DHA and EPA directly from your diet or through fish oil supplements.

Types of Fish Oil:
Fish oil comes in three basic varieties: old-fashioned cod liver oil, health-store fish oil and pharmaceutical-grade fish oil. All three include Omega 3 fatty acids, but these products are definitely not created equal. Here’s a breakdown of each one:

  • Cod Liver Oil – This inexpensive oil is harvested from fish liver. It’s OK in small dosages, but higher amounts can expose you to contaminants and excessive levels of Vitamin A. An entire teaspoon, five grams, contains about 500 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids, but you’ll also receive plenty of organic mercury and commercial chemicals including DDT and PCB.
  • Health-Store Fish Oil – Slightly more expensive, this type of fish oil is often extracted from salmon, tuna, anchovies, herring or sardines. Some products are filtered to remove a portion of the contaminants and concentrated to provide a higher dose of Omega 3 fatty acids. On average, this type of fish oil contains 300 mg of Omega 3s per one-gram serving, about three times as much as cod liver oil. Although safer than cod liver oil, this type of fish oil can be dangerous at high dosages.
  • Pharmaceutical-Grade Fish Oil – This type of fish oil has been filtered to remove almost all contaminants and concentrated to increase the Omega 3 percentage to very high levels. If you’re interested in using a high dosage of Omega 3s in your diet, this is the safest and easiest way to proceed. This type of fish oil generally contains 600 mg of Omega 3s per one-gram serving, about double the amount of the typical health store product.

Which Fish Oil Should I Take and How Much?
Although the FDA has not yet set a recommendation for fish oil intake, but several other medical groups have presented their opinions on the subject based on specific health concerns. Here are a few of the most popular recommendations:

  • Omega 3 Fish OilHealthy Adults – This group should get about 2,000 mg of Omega 3 fatty acids every day. This fatty acid supports brain development, brain health and memory. Children and seniors can also benefit from additional amounts of essential fatty acids.• Crohn’s Disease – The recommendation for this ailment is 2,000 mg twice a day for a total of 4,000 mg in a 24-hour period.
  • Lupus – This disorder responds well to 6,000 mg per day split into three 2,000 mg doses.
  • Asthma, Arthritis and High Blood Pressure – Doctors may recommend 3,000 mg per day for these health problems, split into three 1,000 mg doses.

Because of the contaminant levels associated with health-store fish oil capsules, pharmaceutical-grade fish oil is always the safest choice.Speak with your doctor about their recommendations for any of your specific health concerns.

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Atherosclerosis and Peripheral Artery Disease

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Artherosclerosis ArteryAtherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is caused when cholesterol and fat build up on the inner walls of the arteries and form a hard substance called plaque. Eventually, this plaque buildup can clog the arteries and cause a variety of problems throughout the entire body. Restricted blood flow caused prevents an adequate flow of oxygen and nutrients to individual cells and can result in tissue damage, stroke, or heart attack. Narrowed arteries also make blood clots more likely, leading to an increased chance of a pulmonary embolism or peripheral artery disease.

Atherosclerosis Statistics
By the age of 35, two-thirds of Americans have some type of plaque buildup in their arteries although they generally have no noticeable symptoms. However, this slow, progressive condition of peripheral artery disease almost always leads to coronary heart disease, the number one killer in the United States.

Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
Hardening of the arteries happenAtherosclerosis Cholesterols to almost everyone as they age. However, some risk factors like an unhealthy diet filled with fatty foods can make this health condition happen earlier and faster than normal. Additional risk factors include:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Excessive weight
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Family history of atherosclerosis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
In most cases, atherosclerosis causes no noticeable symptoms for the first few years. Once blood flow to the heart is slowed or stopped, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms may occur. Blockages or narrowed arteries can also cause problems in other parts of the body including the brain, kidneys, intestines, or legs. In fact, atherosclerosis can eventually cause both metabolic syndrome and kidney failure.

Atherosclerosis Treatment
The best treatment for this condition is prevention. Drastically reduce your risk factors by eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats, exercise at least 30 minutes every other day, restrict alcohol consumption, and stop smoking. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels should be monitored and kept within healthy limits. Patients with an extensive family history of coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, or stoke may need to take prescription medications to keep cholesterol levels low and take an aspirin daily to prevent blood clots.

Sources

  1. Healthy Blood Sugar Levels – Blood Sugar 360°
  2. Coronary Heart Disease – PubMed
  3. Atherosclerosis – Science Daily
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Benefits of Aloe Vera

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

The Aloe Vera plant has been widely regarded as a “Master Healing Plant.” Aloe has been used for thousands of years to heal a wide range of conditions and digestive issues.

Aloe vera, the most common form of the aloe succulents, is very easy to grow, and a plant every home should have on hand for all-around first aid.  The Aloe plant may be grown indoors in a pot as well as outdoors in areas with a warm climate.  Aloe plants are very low maintenance and only need to be watered every 10-14 days, once the soil is completely dry.

The Aloe plant acts as an antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial agent.  Aloe soothes burns, skin irritations and even helps treat various skin conditions like eczema and ringworm.  When applied to wounds, aloe increases the blood flow to the injured area, stimulating fibroblast, the skin cells responsible for wound healing.  To use Aloe topically, simply cut off a leaf of your Aloe plant (or buy pure Aloe Vera Gel at your local market) and place the soothing clear gel on the areas where it is needed.

Aloe also provides many benefits when taken internally.  Drinking Aloe Vera Juice (which may be found at natural food stores) has shown to help ease digestive discomfort and treat both constipation and diarrhea. Studies also show that when taken internally, Aloe can stimulate and regulate various components of the immune system by stopping and soothing inflammation and improving blood circulation.  Taking Aloe internally is easy; drink around 3-6 ounces a day to benefit from all the wonderful healing properties that Aloe has to offer.

You can buy Aloe plants at most natural food stores, local farmers markets and nurseries.  The low maintenance and numerous uses of Aloe make it an economical and all-around beneficial addition to any household.

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Resveratrol: The Truth

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Resveratrol | Red Wine

At one time, the fact that the French could eat extremely rich, high-fat meals on a regular basis without suffering from the same levels of heart disease as the rest of the world was a mystery. It was such a mystery that it was named the French Paradox. The only significant difference was the people of France loved their local wines and enjoyed a glass or two with every meal.

Suddenly, everyone was eager to add wine to their diet. Some felt that it was the alcohol itself, while others thought it might be the stress relief that could come with a small drink or two. Other forms of alcohol in moderation provided small benefits, but nothing could compare to red wine. Soon, researchers discovered the chemical in red wine that was responsible, Resveratrol. Let’s take a closer look at this healthy, all-natural substance:

The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol’s biggest claim to fame is that it can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in our blood stream to prevent heart disease. It also improves circulation, modulates blood pressure, and protects blood vessels. As if this wasn’t enough, Resveratrol acts as a strong antioxidant to prevent cancer. Studies in rats have shown that mega-doses of this miracle chemical can even destroy a large amount of tumor cells.

Resveratrol has been thought of as the fountain of youth by some. Although the jury is out on that one, it has been shown to be helpful as a weight loss aid. It is thought to activate the SIRT1 gene during low-calorie diets to burn fat instead of allowing the body to go into a starvation mode where it desperately hangs onto every bit of extra weight. This gene is also thought to be the key to prevent aging.

Even if Resveratrol can’t help us look younger, it can definitely help us feel that way. It prevents or slows the progression of  many age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, gout, and inflammatory diseases. Many reports say that this red-wine component can even help with hair loss and increase energy levels.

The Problem with Supplements
Many people were interested in adding Resveratrol to their diet, but they weren’t so thrilled with drinking red wine with every meal. For most Americans, consuming enough of this healthy chemical through wine alone wouldn’t fit into their lifestyle. Most jobs nowadays frown on even a single glass at lunchtime.

Soon, the diet industry responded with Resveratrol supplements in both liquid and pill form. However, many were just marketing gimmicks that didn’t supply nearly enough active ingredients to reach therapeutic levels.  Many supplement products provide a daily dose of 200-600 mcg per day.  This is significantly less than 500mg-2000mg shown to be effective in various clinical studies.  Unfortunately these substantially higher dosages of Resveratrol would be equivalent to hundreds of glasses of wine per day.

Something else to consider is that low-quality Resveratrol tablets are only about 50% pure. This would mean that a 100 mg pill only contains about 50 mg of Resveratrol with the remaining 50 mg taken up by other ingredients including emodin, a substance responsible for side effects like upset stomach and a variety of other digestive symptoms. When possible, only purchase supplements labeled as 99% pure trans-Resveratrol.

In addition to purity, the absorption rate is critical. After all, you can take pill after pill, but they will have little affect on your health if your body can’t absorb the Resveratrol. For the best bio-availability, choose supplements that are manufactured with a micronization process that has already broken down this chemical into small units for easier digestion. This is the reason that so many people rely on liquid supplements as opposed to the tablet form. Although it’s much easier to pop a pill than to drink a glass or more of Resveratrol in liquid form, the bio-availability is much better with the supplemental drinks.

Resveratrol | Red GrapesOther Food Sources of Resveratrol
Of course, it’s always best to get critical nutrients from your diet. In most cases, our body’s digestive system breaks down vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients better when they’re delivered through food sources. Over 70 plant-based foods contain Resveratrol including grapes, blueberries, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed. If you plan on adding grapes to your diet, the muscadine variety has the highest levels. Also, Japanese knotweed is so high in Resveratrol that this exotic herb is rapidly hitting the Western supplement market.

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Chocolate – The Confection for Love and Health!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Chocolate StrawberryIf you’re expecting a big box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day, you’re in luck! This sweet treat is actually good for you, in moderation, of course. That’s a good thing since over 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold in the weeks leading up to the February holiday.  To put an end to the guilt before opening that heart-shaped box, review this list of healthy facts about everyone’s favorite candy:

Heart-Healthy Treats
Can you believe that anything as decadent as chocolate can actually be good for your heart! It’s true! According to many different studies, chocolate contains flavonoids, an important antioxidant. Not only does it contain this substance, but it contains it in relatively high amounts. In fact, chocolate contains approximately eight times more flavonoids than strawberries – that means chocolate-dipped strawberries are doing double duty! Chocolate’s flavonoids can reduce bad cholesterol levels and hypertension, two big causes of heart disease.

A Psycho-Active Food
Don’t let this technical term scare you away from this creamy, dark confection. This simply means that chocolate contains substances that affect your brain – in a good way!

  • Some studies have shown increases in cognitive function after consuming a small amount of chocolate.
  • Chocolate contains a little bit of anandamide, a chemical found naturally in the brain that promotes feelings of wellbeing.
  • Chocolate contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid required to produce serotonin for balanced moods and reduced anxiety.
  • Best of all, chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, also known as the “love chemical!”

The Healthiest Choices
Although chocolate is good for you, all chocolate isn’t considered equal. If you choose to eat candy with a ton of sugar and little natural cacao, the benefits will be diluted to the point of uselessness. When shopping for the best quality chocolate, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Valentine's Day ChocolateDark chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate.
  • For the healthiest options, look for chocolate bars with 75% or more of cacao.
  • Most cacao seeds are harvested in third-world countries. By purchasing Fairtrade chocolates, you can put an end to slave labor and other abuses in the chocolate industry.

When you consider that the scientific name of the cacao tree, Theobroma, can be literally translated into “food of the gods,” it’s no wonder that we’re practically addicted to chocolate.

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Molybdenum

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

While you’re probably familiar with iron, calcium, zinc, and many of other minerals your body needs to function at peak levels, most people have never have heard of molybdenum. In fact, you might think you had caught some infectious disease if your doctor started talking about levels of this trace mineral. Molybdenum is an important mineral involved with everyday functions of the body.

Molybdenum ChartWhy is Molybdenum Important?
This little-known element helps every part of the body, from your brain to your liver, function properly. Molybdenum is essential for the proper metabolization of RNA and DNA, the acids that make up a large part of every cell in our body. This process converts food into energy, regulates blood sugar, and carries away the toxic bi-products. By helping our cells function properly and riding our body’s of toxins, Molybdenum prevents the development of cancer cells.

As a cleansing agent, molybdenum is particularly good at removing sulfite toxins from the human body. Because sulfites are commonly used in preservatives, most people are constantly adding them to their system through food and drugs. Without molybdenum, increased sulfite levels could cause symptoms similar to an allergic reaction.

Molybdenum also helps detoxify the liver, produce essential enzymes, and even prevents tooth decay. It is also critical to proper brain and kidney function. Low levels caused by genetic malformations, which prevent proper absorption, can lead to anything from neurological problems to mental retardation.  Impotence in older men can even be caused by abnormally low levels of this mineral.

How Much Do I Need?
Now that you know how important it is to get a sufficient amount of molybdenum, you’re probably wondering about your own body. Luckily, there’s no need to panic. Unless you have a genetic problem, you’re almost guaranteed to get enough of this trace mineral from your diet. Because molybdenum deficiency is so rare, an official recommended daily allowance (RDA) has not even been established. Opinions on the subject vary, but most experts agree that the 25 micrograms found in most supplements is enough to prevent problems.

Only a tiny amount of Molybdenum is needed for proper cell function and since it is a mineral you do not want to intake higher levels than necessary.  Too much can make your body lose copper, another important mineral, or cause gout, anemia, or diarrhea.

MolybdenumNatural Sources of Molybdenum
Lucky for us, molybdenum can be found in a wide variety of food sources. If you live in an area with hard tap-water, especially well water, this mineral-rich fluid probably contains molybdenum in addition to other important elements. While the highest levels of molybdenum can be found in legumes, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains, the type of food isn’t actually the biggest indicator of mineral levels. Because plants absorb this mineral from the soil, any plant product grown in molybdenum-rich areas will contain more than those cultivated in mineral-poor soil. This mineral can sometimes be found in animal liver and low-fat milk, as well.

Symptoms of Molybdenum Deficiency
There’s rarely a reason to worry about low levels of this mineral. Most of the time, symptoms can be attributed to other problems and aren’t a result of too little molybdenum. However, this is a list of possible symptoms just in case you need a little reassurance:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Impotence
  • Tooth Decay
  • Anemia
  • Poor General Health

 

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Gluten Free Diet – What’s it all About?

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Gluten WheatIf you’ve paid attention to any media source recently, you’ve probably heard  about gluten sensitivity and gluten-free diets. Even Chelsea Clinton has gone gluten-free and had a gluten-free menu at her recent wedding. This fad has been triggered by the growing awareness of health benefits that a gluten free diet provides. In addition to Chelsea, Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel (star of Bones), and Rachel Weisz (star of The Mummy) have joined the ranks of the gluten free.

Why is Everyone Going Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free diets are not just for the rich and famous. Marketing surveys indicate that 15 to 25% of shoppers, a startling one out of four, are asking for gluten-free products. Doctor’s estimate that only 1% of the population has an actual gluten intolerance, so there must be some reason that everyone else is giving up gluten. Gluten-free followers find their new diet,  free of most processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables, gives them a vitality and energy level they never had before. A gluten-free diet will naturally stabilize blood sugar as processed sugars are removed from the foods being eaten. While this is good for everyone, it is particularly good for diabetics.

What is Gluten?
People talk about gluten like it’s pure poison, the worst thing since fat and cholesterol. Gluten is simply a type of plant-based protein that is in many wheat and grain products. It is in most traditional breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, and other baked products. In other words, it’s the comfort foods that most of us think of as “the good stuff.” While a reasonable amount of gluten doesn’t seem to harm most people, if you have a gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, or diabetes, it can cause fatigue, disgestive problems and interefer with the absorbtion of nutrients.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet the Answer to Type 1 Diabetes?
There is a high occurrence of patients with both celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes. U.S. statistics show that 1 in 100 people in the general population have celiac disease, while 1 in 10 people who have Type 1 Diabetes also have celiac disease. Many celiac patients find that their diabetic symptoms disappear when they follow the strict, gluten-free diet that is recommended for their gluten intolerance. In fact, researchers believe that this correlation may be their first clue to finding a way to prevent Type 1 Diabetes. This is quite a break through because this is the first indication of any firm idea on how Type 1 Diabetes could be triggered. Wouldn’t it be a miracle if Type 1 Diabetes could be prevented or driven into remission by simply changing your diet? It would give Type 1 patients the same hope that Type 2 patients enjoy.

To Go Gluten Free, or Not?
The gluten-free diet will effectively help those with wheat allergies, celiac disease and diabetes if followed 100% but gluten-free may not be for everyone.  If control over your diet is what you are aiming to achieve then gluten free can be beneficial, but if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or diabetes consider the gluten-free diet as a guideline.  Avoid the common foods that contain gluten, like pastries, pizza, beer and even soy sauce and remember to replace these with lots of fruit, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy options.  Also, always be sure to read the nutritional labels on any “gluten-free” products; just because it is gluten-free doesn’t mean it isn’t full of calories, fat or sugars.

Some common foods that may contain gluten:

  • Pastries: Pretzels, muffins, cakes, pastas, cookies, etc
  • Gluten CrissantPizza
  • Beer
  • Lucheon  meats and sausages may contain gluten fillers
  • Soups with a flour base
  • Instant coffee
  • Licorice
  • Hot Chocolate powders
  • Soy Sauce
  • Dry mustard
  • Gravy powders and stock cubes
  • Baked beans
  • Pates
  • Anything with wheat, wheat germ, wheat grass, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, seitan, semolina, spelt, or triticale
  • Also avoid foods that contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein
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Health Starts With Proactive Prevention

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Staying healthy starts with proactive prevention.  One of the easiest ways to be proactive is to keep up with your suggested medical check-ups.  Staying up to date with important check-ups is one easiest things you can do to stay healthy and prevent disease and disability. Click on the link below to view a simple guide for scheduling your most important health screenings.

  • Blood Pressure Measurement: at least every two (2) years
  • Cholesterol Test: Every five (5) years starting at age 20
  • Blood Glucose Test: Every three (3) years starting at age 45
  • Thyroid Test (TSH): Every five (5) years starting at age 35
  • Eye Exam: Every two (2) to three (3) years starting at age 18
  • Hearing Test: Every ten (10) years starting at age 18
  • Skin Exam: Annually starting at age 20
  • Colonoscopy: Every ten (10) years starting at age 50
  • Mammogram: Starting at age 40 every one (1) to two (2) years
  • Prostate Exam: Annually starting at age 45
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