Make a Resolution for Good Health in 2021 – It’s Time to Catch Up on Well Checks and Preventive Care


The new year brings a fresh start, a renewed sense of hope, and if you’re like many people, a handful of resolutions. Even with the best intentions, some resolutions are tough to keep. But, one of the most important promises you can make to yourself is the promise to focus on your health. If you keep just one resolution this year, make it an important one. Resolve to make good health part of your routine.

COVID-19 has turned our usual way of life upside down, and many people have let some healthy habits slip. Now is the time to prioritize your health. Regular checkups and screenings are important parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and they can identify potential health problems in the early stages when treatments are most effective.

Memorial Hermann Medical Group physicians remind us that early detection can save lives, and that making time for routine health screenings should be a priority for all of us.

Annual Checkups and Health Screenings: Don’t Put Them Off

Majid Basit, MD and Reginald Nguyen, MD.

Did you miss your checkup or screening exam because of the pandemic? Memorial Hermann Medical Group family medicine physician Reginald Nguyen, MD, recommends seeing your primary care physician annually to stay current on routine health screenings and vaccinations, and to manage any chronic health conditions. Early detection is one of the best defenses against illness, and preventive care goes a long way toward staying healthy. Keeping up with your appointments is an important part of staying well, even during the pandemic.

For patients with chronic illnesses, Dr. Nguyen warns that skipping appointments can be dangerous. “What we’re seeing is patients are staying home and not coming in because of fear, and then some of them end up dying at home from things like heart attack or stroke,” Nguyen said. “The risk of dying from underlying chronic conditions is double- or triple-fold the risk of dying from COVID-19.”

With routine checkups, your physician can identify health concerns early. Even illnesses that seem minor should be addressed. “What starts as a small health concern can quickly turn into a serious condition if not caught quickly,” said Dr. Nguyen. “Something that seems simple, like a cough, could progress into a bacterial infection like pneumonia. Or, you may think you’re just suffering from seasonal allergies, but if left untreated, you could end up with bacterial sinusitis.”

Memorial Hermann Medical Group providers are offering virtual visits. Seeing your provider in the clinic is ideal, but at a minimum, Dr. Nguyen advises scheduling an online appointment.

Heart Health Screenings

Nadim Jafri, MD and Kyle Keyes, MD.

Monitoring key health metrics like blood pressure and cholesterol are essential to maintaining good heart health, according to Memorial Hermann Medical Group cardiovascular disease specialist Majid Basit, MD. “Often called the ‘silent killer,’ high blood pressure can cause a number of problems before you ever experience a single symptom,” Dr. Basit said. “High blood pressure can be a ticking time bomb, putting you at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Another risk factor for vascular disease is high cholesterol, which can be tied to diet or genetics. Everyone should have their cholesterol checked beginning at age 25, and even earlier if you have a family history,” said Dr. Basit.

If you have cardiac symptoms such as progressive chest pain or shortness of breath, Dr. Basit advises seeing your healthcare provider right away. Don’t let your overall health or quality of life suffer because you’ve put off routine health screenings,” Dr. Basit said.

Diabetes Testing

If you are age 45 or over, Dr. Sunil Momin with Memorial Hermann Medical Group recommends getting screened for diabetes. If you are overweight and have other risk factors, your healthcare provider may recommend getting screened at an even younger age. A routine blood test checks your fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1C levels, and if they are above normal, you should work with your healthcare provider on a management plan.

Know Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index (BMI), which is the ratio of your weight to your height, is a helpful calculation to determine whether  your weight is in the healthy range. If your BMI is above normal, you may be more likely to develop diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea or certain cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health.

According to Dr. Reginald Nguyen, being overweight also correlates with having a weaker immune system. “Without a healthy diet and regular exercise, you won’t have good blood flow throughout your body,” he said. “This means your immune system may not be ready to fight off an infection.”

Staying active is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. It is important to remember that exercise doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. “Go outside and walk,” Dr. Nguyen advises. “Walk at a brisk pace and aim for 30 minutes per day, five days per week. This is a good way to maintain your weight while also getting cardiovascular benefits.”

If you are just starting out, then take it slowly. Walking for 5 to 10 minutes is a great place to begin.

A Screening Timeline for Adults

Which health screenings do you need? Timing varies depending on your family history and other risk factors. Talk with your primary care physician to determine which tests are right for you, and at what age you should begin. Here is a list of common screenings:

Every year*

  • Annual physical exam
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Diabetes screening
  • Obesity screening
  • Depression screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Prostate cancer screening for males after shared decision making
  • Breast cancer screening for females starting at age 40

Every 3-5 years*

  • Well woman exam with cervical cancer screening starting at age 21

Every 10 years*

  • Colorectal cancer screening

*For healthy adults without risk factors or family history. Speak with your physician about the timing that is appropriate for you.

Breast Cancer Screening

Screening mammograms are important tools for detecting breast cancer. Memorial Hermann Imaging and Breast Care Centers are performing exams and taking enhanced safety precautions to keep each patient safe. If you put off scheduling your appointment due to the pandemic, it’s not too late to get back on a regular schedule.

“If you have been having regular, annual screening mammograms, delaying for a couple of months is usually okay,” said Dr. Nguyen. “However, if you have a high risk of cancer, you should not postpone your annual screening mammogram. And, if you’ve received abnormal test results in the past, it’s important to get your diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds or other follow-up breast studies done as soon as possible.”

If you’re in a high-risk group for COVID-19, check with your doctor before scheduling.

Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer is one of the most curable cancers if caught early. Memorial Hermann Medical Group gastroenterologist Nadim Jafri, MD, recommends staying current on colon cancer screening to prevent possible complications down the road. “All people should get their first colonoscopy for colon cancer around ages 45-50, and sooner for those at higher risk due to ethnicity or family history,” said Dr. Jafri. “Screenings are an important way we can keep focused on helping patients achieve their long-term health goals.”

If you have symptoms such as blood in your stool, a recent change in bowel habits or unexplained weight loss, Dr. Jafri recommends seeing your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Early Detection for Prostate Cancer

Prostate screening is an important part of men’s health. “Prostate cancer often goes undiscovered until it becomes advanced,” said Memorial Hermann Medical Group urologist Kyle Keyes, MD. “Routine blood testing is usually the earliest method for detection.”

A routine blood test measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Higher levels of PSA may indicate prostate cancer or other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate. As with many chronic conditions, the earlier it is identified, the more options there are for treatment.

If you delayed health screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember healthcare providers are taking steps to ensure your safety. With Safe Wait™ enhanced safety measures at Memorial Hermann locations, you can get the care you need with peace of mind.  As the pandemic continues, one of the biggest lessons being learned is that making an effort to stay healthy is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.


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