8 Tests That Can Lengthen Your Life

By Dr. Rick Morris

We’re living in an age when we can scan every bone, image every tissue, measure most blood elements and even peek into our genetic code. Yet, The Rand Corporation found that patients, who were screened the most, were no healthier than those more neglected. But, before you’re ready to quit your yearly physicals, some tests are shown to save thousands of lives, while others may actually shorten them. Which are which? Let’s take a quick look at the tests that really do matter.

  • Highly Sensitive C-Reactive Protein (Hs-CRP) and Lp-PLA2: Two sensitive blood tests for inflammation, when combined together indicate an 11-fold increase in Stroke. More importantly, it’s useful in measuring the effects of treatments designed to bring down your stroke risk.
  • Mammograms with CAD: Few argue that mammograms save lives, but you may not realize that a third of women screened get a false positive (i.e. bad news that is not accurate), while 20% mistakenly miss the cancer when it is there. Having two radiologists review your study and using Computer-Assisted Detection (CAD) significantly improve the accuracy of the reading. You may want to ask for it.
  • Sleep Apnea Testing-Polysomnogram: If you’re snoring, choking or gasping for air at night (or think you might be), get this test! Sleep Apnea affects up to one in four men and one in 10 women. Because it prevents proper sleep, it releases stress hormones and raises your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and type II diabetes. Fewer than 15% of apnea suffers are aware of their condition and are often less healthy and taking more medications than they’d need with proper treatment.
  • Ultrasound for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms: The Aorta is the largest artery in your body and if it’s walls weaken and break, the chance of surviving is only 20%. A simple, inexpensive and non-invasive ultrasound can find it before it breaks and is still treatable. Aneurysms are present in 2% of those younger than 65 and 8% in those over 65 who are in high-risk groups such as those who are obese, had hypertension, have occlusive arterial disease or have smoked over 100 cigarettes. It is more prevalent in males than females. If you fit into one of these high-risk categories, ask your doctor for the test.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI): Excuse me for stating the obvious, but too much fat on or in our bodies is bad. It’s associated with nearly every degenerative and aging process known. Especially important is abdominal or visceral fat. It’s easy to measure your BMI and is especially important when you combine this number with your waist circumference. Check out these two links by the National Institute of Health. In three minutes you’ll receive your BMI score and find help if you want it:

    Calculate Your BMI

    Your Risk of Disease Based On Your BMI and Waist Circumference

  • BEAM (Brain Electrical Activity Map): This is an advanced EEG which measures the electrical patterns in your brain. It’s considered the “stress test” for the brain. It can detect very early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and memory loss, Depression, Insomnias and Schizophrenia. It’s painless and non-invasive.
  • Colonoscopy: After 50 years old, most of us need to get one of these obnoxious tests and it should be repeated every 10 years. The less invasive virtual tests with CT scans, are not quite as accurate and use a significant amount of radiation. So, get the ones with the wire, camera and doctor peering up your backside. But, all is not terrible, you can use a pill called OsmoPrep to “clean you out” as opposed to drinking large quantities of a nasty-tasting laxative. This test cuts the risk of dying from colon cancer by 53%...so I guess it’s worth it. The accuracy of the study depends heavily on the length of time the doctor spends “looking around”. A 40% improvement in detection was seen when the doctors spent a minimum of eight minutes. So find a good doctor and discuss with him your concerns.
  • STD’s Including HIV and Chlamydia: : If you are sexually active and are not exclusive to one another, you must be tested regularly for sexually active diseases. They can lead to sterility; affect your baby, cause dementia and even death, but can nearly always be treated by early detection and treatment.

We live in an age with continual technological advances, but they do not all help us. In fact, some may even worsen the quality of our lives. We’ve seen this all too frequently with new medications and surgeries. Yet, we should be up on the advances that do work. Do not just assume your doctor is “up” on everything. I’ve had a teacher once say, “What one is not up on, he is usually down on.” So, just because your doctor may dismiss things he acts knowledgeable about, doesn’t mean he’s right. Be ready to investigate and get other opinions.

We at The Morris Spinal Stenosis and Disc Center promise to be open to new ideas and investigate what we are not sure of; in short, to be the best health resource possible.