Live healthier this new year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 25, 2014

With the new year underway, people everywhere are working to maintain their resolutions — to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, spend more time with family and friends, etc. These resolutions are the foundations for what will make you happier and healthier in 2014.

One of the most important new year’s resolutions to help you live healthier is to have your yearly

wellness checkup with your physician to take advantage of preventive screenings. Preventive screenings are tests and immunizations that insurance providers offer to their members at no cost. This means that members do not have to pay any deductible (money that the patient is responsible to pay before his/her insurance company will start covering any health care costs) or any copayment (the fixed amount the patient would have to pay for a covered health care service such as a doctor’s visit).

“Preventive screenings are very important because treating a disease in its earliest stages can be relatively easy, sometimes requiring little more than a simple prescription,” said Dr. José Cuscó, an internal medicine physician on staff at River Parishes Hospital. “But helping a patient combat the effects of an advanced disease can be extremely difficult.”

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the United States. These diseases account for approximately seven out of every 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of approximately 90 million Americans. Many preventive screenings have been recognized as a cost-effective way to identify and treat potential health problems before they develop or worsen. In conjunction with the Affordable Care Act, all of the recently offered marketplace plans must cover a list of preventive screenings at no cost to their members.

Preventive screenings that are recommended for adults by most insurance providers include:

• Blood Pressure Screening – By taking steps to lower your blood pressure, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get tested because it has no signs or symptoms.

• Cholesterol Screening – Too much cholesterol in your blood can cause heart disease or a heart attack. You could have high cholesterol and not know it because it has no signs or symptoms.

• Diabetes (Type 2) Screening – Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. If it’s not controlled, diabetes can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease and other health problems.

• Colorectal Screening – If you are age 50 or older, you should talk to your doctor about having a colonoscopy to test for colorectal cancer. You may need to get tested before age 50 if colorectal cancer runs in your family.

• Mammogram Screening – The American Cancer Society recommends that women have a yearly screening mammogram beginning at age 40. Early detection of breast cancer with screening mammography means that treatment can be started earlier in the course of the disease, possibly before it has spread.

• Bone Density Screening – A bone density test measures how strong your bones are and will tell you if you are at risk for osteoporosis. Anyone can get osteoporosis, but it’s most common in older women. Osteoporosis has no signs or symptoms. You might not know you have the disease until you break a bone.

• Cervical Cancer Screening – a yearly well-woman visit is recommended for all adults at age 21 or earlier if sexually active. This exam includes a Pap test to find abnormal cells before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented if women get regular Pap tests.

• Prostate Cancer Screening – The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk to their doctors about having a prostate cancer screening beginning at age 50 or at age 45 if you are at a higher risk.

• Immunization Vaccines – Adults need shots just like children do. Make sure you are up to date on your shots. For example: a yearly flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu; a Tdap vaccine helps to protect against tetanus diphtheria, and whooping cough; a pneumonia shot is recommended for people age 65 and older to help prevent bacterial pneumonia; and if you are age 60 or older, you can get a shingles shot. For more information about recommended vaccines, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at

It is important for people to become familiar with their benefits plan so they will know all the preventive screenings that are available to them and their family members.

A doctor isn’t someone to see only when you’re sick. Doctors also provide services that help keep you healthy.

“Immunizations, vaccines and check-ups are all essential to good health,” said Cuscó. “When it comes to treating potentially serious conditions, early diagnosis is key.”

Most people use an important event such as their birthday as a reminder to have their yearly wellness checkup and preventive screenings. Whatever event you choose as your reminder, make sure you follow through each year and take advantage of your free preventive screenings. The earlier you begin treatment for a condition, the greater your chances are for a full recovery.

Cuscó›s office, the River Parishes Internal Medicine Clinic, is located in the River Parishes Hospital Medical Pavilion at 502 Rue de Santé, Suite 308, in LaPlace. He is available to see patients on a full-time basis in LaPlace. Appointments may be made by calling 985-652-3500.