Protect Yourself and Loved Ones from Serious Disease
2018 is the year to make your health your priority! Vaccines are NOT just for kids! Regardless of age, we ALL need immunizations to protect against serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases. Protection from vaccines you received as a child can wear off over time, and you may be at risk for new and different diseases. Your need for immunization doesn’t end when you become an adult. Get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones from serious diseases.
Find Out Which Vaccines You Need
The specific vaccines you need as an adult are determined by your age, job, lifestyle, health conditions, where you travel, and which vaccines you’ve had in the past. Throughout your adult life, vaccines are recommended to get and maintain protection against:
- Seasonal Flu: Vaccination is recommended for all adults. Influenza is a highly contagious disease that affects your lungs. It is caused by various strains of influenza viruses. Flu causes mild to severe illness and can be deadly in some cases.
- Whooping Cough (Pertussis): Vaccination is recommended for all adults who have not previously received the Tdap vaccine and for women during each pregnancy. A highly contagious respiratory disease, Pertusis causes severe and persistent high-pitched coughing spasms.
- Tetanus: Vaccination is recommended every 10 years following Tdap vaccine. Tetanus is a bacterial disease of the nervous system caused by Clostridium tetani. Symptoms include painful contractions of the muscles that can progress to seizure-like activity and nervous system disorders.
- Diptheria: Vaccination is recommended every 10 years following Tdap vaccine. Diptheria is a serious disease caused by a bacterial toxin (poison). It causes severe breathing problems and can be deadly.
- Singles (Zoster): Vaccination is recommended for adults 60 years and older. Shingles is a painful skin rash with blisters caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a chickenpox infection, the virus can remain in nerve cells and reappear years later in the form of shingles.
- Pneumococcal pneumonia: Vaccination is recommended for adults 65 years and older and adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions. Pneumonia is a serious lung infection caused by the bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae.
You may also need other vaccinations including those that protect against human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. Ask your doctor which vaccines are right for you based on your medical history and work environment.
Immunization is one of the safest ways for you to protect your health. Vaccine side effects are usually mild and go away on their own. Severe side effects are very rare. Adults can get vaccines at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, health departments, and other locations. To find a place near you to get a vaccine, visit www.vaccinefinder.org.
Be Proactive in Your Health
Screenings Detect Diseases in Early, Treatable Stages
One important component of a long and healthy life is getting preventive health screenings for serious diseases. If your doctor finds a disease early, the problem is often easier to treat and may cause less damage. In addition to celebrating milestone birthdays, consider them reminders for certain important health checks. Here’s a timeline for health screenings through the decades:
Breast cancer. Mammograms use X-rays to look for breast cancers when they are still small. The American College of Radiology recommends annual mammograms for women starting at age 40. Talk with your doctor about frequency, as well as other possible imaging tests if you have a family history of breast cancer. Mammograms are the best way to detect early cancer, but all women should also know how their breasts feel normally and report any changes to their doctor.
Prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests that men talk with their doctor at age 50 about whether they should be tested for prostate cancer. This screening involves a blood test measuring a substance called PSA. It may also include a rectal exam of the prostate. African-American men and men with a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65 should have this talk at age 45.
Osteoporosis. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that women be screened for osteoporosis starting at age 65, and younger for women whose fracture risk is equal to or greater than that of a 65-year-old white woman who has no additional risk factors.
Colorectal cancer. The ACS suggests that both men and women be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. The gold standard diagnostic test is the colonoscopy. If no precancerous polyps are found, you may not need to have it the test repeated more than once every 10 years. If you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, you may need to be tested earlier. Talk with your doctor about this.
Diabetes. The National Institutes of Health suggests that everyone age 45 or older think about being tested for diabetes. Consider starting at a younger age if you’re overweight and have other factors that put you at higher risk for diabetes, such as an elevated blood glucose level, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or family history of diabetes.
Cholesterol. Women should have their cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45; men every 5 years beginning at 35. If you smoke, have diabetes, or if heart disease runs in your family, start having your cholesterol checked at age 20.
Blood pressure. All adults should be screened for high blood pressure once a year. If the blood pressure is in the low normal range, screening can be extended to every two years.
Abdominal aneurysm. Men should have a one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm between ages 65 and 75 if they have ever smoked, the USPSTF suggests. This ultrasound test looks for a weak, bulging spot in a major blood vessel in the abdomen. The USPSTF doesn’t recommend the screening in older men who haven’t smoked or in women.
Cervical cancer. Women should be screened at least every three years. After age 65 or after a hysterectomy for benign disease, women may stop having Pap smears as long as their previous Pap smears were normal and they are not otherwise at high risk for cervical cancer.
Screenings are just one step you can take to prevent disease later in life. Other crucial steps include:
- Avoiding tobacco
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy
- Getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week
- Drinking alcohol only in moderation, if you drink at all.