As we get older, screenings are the best defense to detect the early signs of disease or even prevent the disease. These are essential and should be part of our health care on a regular basis. Medicare beneficiaries have the advantage of coverage of many preventive services without incurring much expense. Individual and group offered health insurance plans also cover some preventive screenings — check with your plan. Some services will require meeting a deductible or a co-payment.

There’s the saying, “Knowledge is power”, but what is truer is the saying, “Acting on the knowledge is power.” I urge you to be proactive with your health. Early treatment for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or diabetes can be lifesaving. Often, these diseases along with strokes cause the majority of deaths.

Below are the list of preventive services and screenings offered to all those who qualify for Medicare Part B.:

? Cardiovascular screenings that check cholesterol and other blood lipid and triglyceride levels - results will determine if changes in diet or medications are necessary to prevent potential heart disease and stroke. According to statistics, coronary heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. with approximately one million Americans experiencing a heart attack every year. Strokes rank third as a cause of death and but rank first as the leading cause of serious long-term disability.

? Colorectal cancer screenings are important for anyone age 50 and older to check for pre-cancerous polyps. If found, the polyps can removed before they become cancerous.

? Prostate cancer screening is important for men over the age of 50 to detect early signs of prostate cancer. It can be done with a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test or a rectal exam.

? Cervical and vaginal cancer screenings are important for all women and performed as a Pap test and pelvic exam.

? Breast cancer screenings are important for women age 40 and older. Mammograms are covered once every 12 months. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for American women.

? The diabetes screening is accessible to anyone who has risk factors such as high blood pressure, dyslipidemia (history of abnormal cholesterol and tryglyceride levels), obesity, or a history of high blood sugar. Along with these risk factors, one can request the test if you have two or more of the following characteristics: age 65 or older, overweight, family history of diabetes and a history of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or delivery of a baby weighing more than nine pounds. When the results warrant continued monitoring, Medicare approves up to two more diabetes screenings. For type I or type II diabetics, benefits for blood glucose monitors, test strips and lancets are provided. Therapeutic shoes are also covered. With a physician’s certification, outpatient self-management training services to assist patients with their health care regimen are also available. This can include a dietician designing a dietary plan, which is critical in the management of diabetes

? Glaucoma tests are especially important for anyone with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma. As we get older, the risk of blindness due to glaucoma increases. Statistics show that over 50% of those with glaucoma don’t know they have the condition. This benefit is available once every 12 months.

? Bone mass measurement testing helps assess the risk for fractures because of osteoporosis. This testing is available once every 24 months or more frequently for those at higher risk.

During the first six months of enrolling in Medicare Part B, a one-time “Welcome to Medicare” initial physical exam is covered. It includes an assessment of your health, as well as an explanation of the preventive services and vaccines you may need. Preventive benefits also include annual influenza and pneumococcal shots for all beneficiaries over age 65, and the hepatitis B vaccine for anyone at risk of Hepatitis.

Of course, regular physical activity is important to help prevent debilitating health conditions. It can help improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as positively affect overall physical, psychological, and mental health. For more information, copies of Medicare’s publication explaining the above listed benefits, order at www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-633-4227. Prevention is about being proactive with your health.

Mary Garza Cummings is a free-lance writer. The Town Crier does not warrant the information as valid. It is the responsibility of the reader to ensure validity of the information. If you have questions or comments email askseniorfocus@aol.com