If you haven’t had a medical checkup in the past year, this is a good time to take stock of your health.
Consider making an appointment to visit your doctor or other medical provider for preventive screenings now, before the unstructured summer months begin. Safeguarding your health today can contribute to a longer and higher quality life.
While you’re at it, also consider a check in on your finances to ensure you’re staying on track with short- and long-term money goals.
The ‘low-hanging fruit’ of healthy living
A lifestyle aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease and promoting brain health can lead to more years of happiness as we age, said Emelia Benjamin, MD, professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, and a clinical cardiologist at Boston Medical Center.
“A lot of things we can control. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Benjamin, a board member of the American Heart Association.
Cardiovascular disease can be largely preventable. Reducing the risk can save in health care costs over your lifetime. Overall, cardiovascular disease cost the United States $555 billion in 2016, and it’s expected to jump to $1.1 trillion by 2035.1
With that in mind, the American Heart Association developed Life’s Simple 72 , which are easy, inexpensive actions that can have a big impact on your health.
Those seven steps are: Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, reducing blood sugar and not smoking. New guidelines3 on preventing heart attack and stroke from the AHA and the American College of Cardiology incorporate some of the Life’s Simple 7 steps.
“Some cardiovascular disease risk factors are usually monitored or discussed at every annual checkup and are “low-hanging fruit” that you can measure and control on your own,” Benjamin said.
“It’s so important to stay smoke-free,” she added. “That means not lighting up — whether through traditional means or with e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) — and avoiding second-hand smoke.”
To maintain a healthy weight and a heart-healthy diet4, focus on eating skinless fish and poultry, legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Cut back on foods containing saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. Portion control can help you avoid overeating.
Getting physically active is another healthy action, but that doesn’t have to mean running a marathon. Even a little exercise helps.
Look for tiny ways to increase your activity and reduce sedentary time. Walk in your neighborhood or at a mall, or even up and down the aisles in a supermarket. Take the stairs at work instead of an elevator. Park your car farther away from your destination so you’ll have to walk a bit more.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.5
“Physical activity also helps to control weight, prevent diabetes, and improve your brain health,” Benjamin advised.
Measuring and managing other risk factors
Certain preventive health screenings6 are more complex and may need the assistance of a health care provider.
Measuring blood pressure is one of the most crucial screenings because high blood pressure has no symptoms, but it can dramatically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Because it’s easy to check and not costly, it makes sense to have a blood pressure7 reading at regular annual medical checkups.
“Measuring it more frequently with an at-home monitor may be recommended for the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure,” said Benjamin.
“If your blood pressure is above 130/80, your health care provider may want to treat the condition with lifestyle changes such as weight loss, increased physical activity, and reduction of alcohol consumption or — depending on how high the reading is and other individual factors — with medication,” Benjamin added.
Cholesterol8 screening is recommended every four to six years for normal-risk adults, but more often if you have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.9 “Bad” cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, can clog your arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. HDL, or “good” cholesterol, can help eliminate the bad and can be elevated by more regular exercise.10
Blood glucose11 screening for the risk of prediabetes and future diabetes is recommended for everyone beginning at age 45, then, if tests are normal, at least at three-years intervals, according to the American Diabetes Association.12 Individual risk factors may also affect frequency of testing, said Benjamin.
“In all cases, communicate with your health care provider about what’s best in your particular situation, and engage in ‘shared decision making,’” Benjamin added. “Remember that finding out a health screening is out of the normal range is an opportunity to take action.”
“It’s really important to pay attention to your risk factors and try to prevent, not treat, disease,” she said.
While checking in on your physical health, it’s a good time to assess your financial health, too.
A financial review checklist13can guide you through the financial effects of changes in your personal and family life, such as the birth of a child or a marriage, divorce, or a job change. It may be time to update beneficiaries on life insurance policies and IRAs or update a will or power of attorney.
It’s also important to examine whether your savings goals have changed and if you need to rebalance your investments based on market activity.
Staying on top of your finances not only reduces stress over small things, but can free you up to focus on your family, friends, health, and well-being.
Things to Consider:
- If you haven’t had a regular checkup with your health care provider in the past year, schedule one now.
- If you smoke, try to quit. If you aren’t physically active, find ways to get moving. Even a little exercise helps.
- Check in on your finances so you can plan and avoid surprises during next year’s tax season.
This article was prepared by the American Heart Association (AHA). Transamerica is not affiliated with the AHA and does not control, guarantee, or endorse the information. This information does not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911, or call for emergency medical help immediately.
Cardiovascular Disease: A Costly Burden for America . AHA. October 2017
 Time for a Checkup. Annual Review Checklist. Transamerica. 110248_1218 - Advanced Markets - Annual Review Checklist