As I march to SIX O this month and, while I have always taken my health seriously, this birthday (and my goal of being a master athlete) has caused me to consider going beyond my annual screening and blood tests. This year, going back will move me forward.
Most of the discussion of health care in America has focused on access to insurance, but the utilization of healthcare shows that the biggest opportunities may come in preventing disease. Chronic and most often, preventable diseases, are a big driver of personal health spending. The most expensive: diabetes ($176 billion), the most common form of heart disease ($193.4 billion), back and neck pain ($96 billion) and high blood pressure ($42.9 billion). Cancer spending is approaching $100 billion per year.
For my birthday, I am going to spend less than $1,000 out of my pocket and have two tests; a lung scan and a vascular screening. While I am asymptomatic and in very good health, it’s my past that gives me concern.
I grew up in a home of smokers; heavy smokers. Parents, brothers, in-law’s, aunt’s/uncle’s. My twin and I are the youngest in a rather large family so there was a lot of smoking and drinking in our household. Nor, is it lost that I was a smoker for 20 years myself and have been quit, for 20 more. What concerns me however, is that my father and brother died of lung cancer at the age of 61 and 62. Yes, I have had baseline chest x-rays every couple of years but given my history, I want to go deeper. A lung scan can do that. The other test, a vascular screening, can give me a quick assessment to determine if blockage may be present and, can be a catalyst to warrant further testing.
While there are concerns over unnecessary radiation and false positive results, for me, the benefits outweigh any negatives. At the very least, it will give me and my physicians additional information to help me be as proactive as possible in managing my health. If you are approaching 60 consider discussing preventative testing with your doctor and, at the very least, schedule your colonoscopy; hopefully, it will be your second one.