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Keep your eyes on your health

February 23, 2012
Times Leader
By SHELLEY HANSON, For The Times Leader

WHEELING — Perhaps the first step to being healthy in one’s 40s is to have a personal physician. ‘‘Especially at 40 — that’s when we start to see things change,’’ said Dr. William Mercer, Wheeling-Ohio County health officer. ‘‘They should at least try to get their blood pressure checked every two years.’’ Mercer, who also has a private family practice in Wheeling, said high blood pressure is known as a silent illness, which means people often don’t know they have it until problems arise. Blood pressure should not be above 120/80. ‘‘The machines in stores and pharmacies now are very good,’’ Mercer said, noting the monitors can be used between checkups. “Those with blood pressure above 120/80 are considered pre-hypertension and should have their blood pressure checked annually by a physician, he said. ‘‘We used to think it was white coat syndrome, but we pay attention to it more now,’’ Mercer said of a higher reading in the office. The health department, located at 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling, also offers free screenings on Mondays and no appointment is necessary. Knowing one’s body mass index also is important. ‘‘If it’s above 25, you’re overweight and you need to pay attention to that. If it’s elevated, then you’re more prone to high blood pressure and diabetes. You should also get your cholesterol checked, if normal, every five years,’’ he said. ‘‘If you have a BMI above 25, you should be screened for diabetes every three years starting at age 45.’’ Family history of disease also plays a role in determining if early testing is necessary. For example, if one had a father or brother who had colon cancer at 55 years old, they should be screened at 45 years old. The same goes for prostate cancer. One with a family history of glaucoma should have an eye screening starting at 45 years old. Forty-somethings also should remember to get their yearly flu shot, and a tetanus booster every 10 years. Scientists also are recommending people receive a pertussis vaccination booster every 10 years, which is in the Tdap shot, which contains tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines. ‘‘Adults get sick with a cough and pass it on to kids, and kids do much worse,’’ Mercer said. ‘‘If you’ve had a cough for two weeks, there’s a 20 percent chance it’s pertussis.’’ Mercer also recommends that people receive a dental exam and teeth cleaning every year. Women in their 40s should have a clinical breast exam once a year. The American Cancer Society recommends women, starting at age 40, receive annual mammograms. The National Cancer Institute says women can be screened for cervical cancer with a pap smear every three years as long as their last three tests have been normal. Mercer noted if patients aren’t sure about a test or procedure they should not be afraid to talk to their doctor about it. Sometimes bringing a written list to an office visit helps. ‘‘It’s OK to ask questions,’’ he said. He noted during a regular checkup, one’s doctor likely will check blood pressure, height, weight, BMI, and ask about family history and lifestyle habits. 40s Health Check List Women ? Bone density test ? Blood sugar profile ? Blood pressure and cholesterol ? Pap test and pelvic exam ? Breast exam ? Skin check ? Dental check-ups ? Eye exams ? Immunizations Men ? Skin checks ? Dental care ? Testicle checks ? Blood pressure ? Blood tests for cholesterol levels ? Obesity tests ? Diabetes ? Prostate cancer ? Bowel cancer ? Eye check ? Bone density

Article Photos

Photo/Shelley Hanson
Health Officer Dr. William Mercer says adults in their 40s need to pay attention to their body mass index, blood pressure and family history of disease.



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