Many factors play a role in being healthy. Staying in good health can decrease your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and diabetes.
There are several elements that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a plan for improved health and participating in preventative screening with your physician can help you stay in good health.
- Getting regular exercise can help prevent some diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. Routine exercise can help you feel better and keep your weight under control. Exercising for 30-60 minutes five times a week is paramount.
- Losing weight can help reduce your risk factors for several health conditions. Increased weight can lead to weight-related injuries in your joints, hips, knees, or spine.
- Eating healthy and maintaining balanced nutrition can help prevent or treat many of these health conditions and lower your weight, cholesterol, and cardiac disease risk factors. To stay well-hydrated, drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
- Protecting your skin from sun exposure will decrease your risk for some of the more common types of skin cancer. Be sure to limit your time in the sun, wear a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. It should have at least an SPF of 15. Wear protective hats and clothing when outside.
- Do not smoke as tobacco can cause heart disease, mouth, throat, or lung cancer. These are also leading factors of emphysema and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, women no more than 1. Too much alcohol can damage your liver, increase your blood pressure, as well as be a precursor to some cancers.
- Schedule regular visits with your primary care physician as well as your dentist and eye doctor as preventative care can detect disease or prevent illnesses before they start.
Preventative Care Guidelines
- Physician Breast Exam for all women ages 40 and over at least annually
- Breast Self-exams for all women ages 20 and over monthly
- Mammography for women ages 40 and over annually
- Pap Smear/HPV Testing for women ages 21 to 65 or starting 3 years after onset of sexual activity. Annual Pap without HPV before age 30, Pap with HPV every 3 years after age 30.
- Cholesterol/Lipid Panel, including LDL for all men and women starting at age 20, or earlier if Cardiac Risk Profile reveals high risk at least every 5 years.
- Screening Colonoscopy for men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 (may need to extend to 85 based on profile) every 10 years; or high sensitivity stool occult blood testing annually.
- Diabetes screening/Fasting Plasma Glucose for men and women 45 and over every 3 years, or more frequent if at risk.
- Blood pressure measurement in men and women every 1-2 years.
- DXA (bone density test) for women age 65 or over, or starting at menopause if additional risk factors exist. Men may also fall in this category depending on risk factors.
- Prostate Screening by digital rectal exam and prostate specific antigen (PSA) for men 50 and over annually.
- Chlamydia testing for sexually active women under age 25 or for those at risk annually with Pap test.
- HIV testing for men and women, once or increased based on risk.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for men and women age 11-26 in one series of three injections
- Influenza for all men and women annually
- Pneumococcal Vaccine for all men and women age 65 once or in 5 years if a high risk adult
- Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis (TDAP) for men and women 19-64 once in place of Tetanus/Diptheria (TD).
- Tetanus/Diptheria (TD) for all men and women up to age 65 every 10 years (may replace one with TDAP).
- Varicella Zoster or Shingles Vaccine all adults 60 and older, once.
- Other vaccines you may need based on lifestyle/physician recommendation: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, or Meningococcal.
Dental Care and Prevention
Preventative dentistry includes regular oral exams and cleanings every 6 months with routine X-rays. These factors along with regular tooth brushing and dental flossing, lower your risk for developing tooth decay and gum disease.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all adults get a complete eye exam with dilation at the age of 40 unless you have had early signs of disease or changes in your vision. See an ophthalmologist earlier if you have a family history of eye disease or risk factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure. After the age of 65, you would want to have an eye exam yearly or every two years as age-related problems such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or glaucoma could occur.
Scheduling and Health Insurance
As a snowbird, how can you accomplish yearly or biannual exams so that you can stay on track with your healthcare and not create confusion? We find that scheduling all our appointments in May and the end of October works for our biannual exams and that July works for annual exams. We try to keep our routine care in one state and emergency providers on hand in case of problems when we are in the other state. You can check with your insurance company to determine where your preferred or in-network providers are located as a basis of your decision. We found that if you are on Medicare, the original Medicare (A and B) with a Supplement and Part D plans, have more portability than an advantage plan as they are more local or regional.
However you determine to receive your preventative care, keep records with you as you travel for easy reference. Most of our healthcare providers have a portal available so that we can easily keep track of our medical history. So live healthy, get your checkups and preventative care when due, and enjoy your life as a snowbird.