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Safeguard Your Health

Each year, May is designated as "Older Americans" month. What better time to take steps to safeguard your health? You can also encourage those you care about to do the same.

Make plans now to get the services that help prevent disease and illness. Preventive services include screenings, vaccines, and counseling. Screenings may detect disease at an early stage when medical treatment and lifestyle changes can be most effective. Screenings can also help identify conditions that put you at increased risk for disease—knowledge you can act on to help protect and improve your health. Vaccines are effective in preventing diseases. Talking with a health care provider or other professional about health-related challenges such as depression or tobacco use also is beneficial.

Invest in Your Own Well-being . . . Get Your Recommended Services

Screening and Counseling

As we age, our risk for developing chronic diseases and conditions increases. Screening for high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes can help save lives and detect disease even when there may be no symptoms. Screening can bring peace of mind to those who have no sign of disease. Others who have a positive test result gain the knowledge and opportunity they need to seek treatment and change health-related habits sooner rather than later, when the condition is most treatable.

Talking with your health care provider regarding concerns about emotional problems, tobacco use, obesity, and excessive use of alcohol also is important so that he or she can provide appropriate counseling and referral as needed.

Immunizations

  • An annual flu shot is now recommended for everyone in the United States older than six months old. It’s especially important for persons aged 65 years or older, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease). It is also strongly recommended for health care providers and persons who are providing care to another person (caregivers).
  • A single immunization against pneumococcal disease (sometimes referred to as "pneumonia") is recommended for all adults aged 65 years or older. It is also recommended for those at high risk for certain diseases (e.g., sickle cell disease, HIV infection) and for adults aged 19 to 64 years who smoke cigarettes or have asthma.

Know Which Services You Need and When You Need Them

Your age, gender, and health status can make a difference in which services you need and how often. If you have a regular health care provider, be sure to speak with him or her about the services that are recommended for you and how often you should get them. If you don’t have a regular health care provider, contact your local health department.

There are also easy-to-use guides and tools that can help you find out which services you need and when to use them.

Find out which services are recommended for you by using the "Stay Healthy" tools developed for consumers by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and AARP.

An easy-to-use, on-line tool, the electronic Preventive Services Selector, lets you know which services are recommended for you. It is a good idea to confirm this information with your health care provider or local health department.

The information you receive using this tool was developed by the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services (USPSTF), a group of experts in preventive and evidence-based medicine. More information is included in the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services. You may also want to consult the USPSTF’s Guide to Community Preventive Services, a resource that assists communities in identifying programs and policies that improve health and prevent disease.

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