Each prescription medication comes with an information sheet. Be sure to carefully read this sheet. If you have questions or aren't clear about anything on the sheet, check with your health care provider, nurse or pharmacist.
Get your shots
You can prevent several serious diseases by getting immunized. Check with your health care provider to be sure you've had immunization for measles-mumps-rubella, tetanus-diphtheria, whooping cough, and influenza. If you are at risk for hepatitis A or B, you should be immunized against them. People older than 65 should be immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia.
Because of a resurgence of whooping cough (pertussis) in adults, a booster shot in combination with diphtheria and tetanus is now available for teens and adults. In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two new vaccines as adult boosters for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. These vaccines are designated as Tdap and are recommended at 10-year intervals for people up to the age of 64. Current recommendations for adults 65 and older are to get boosters of tetanus and diphtheria only, every 10 years.
In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended a second varicella (chicken pox) vaccine immunization for adults previously immunized against chicken pox. All adults not previously immunized and who have not had chicken pox should talk to their doctor about immunization.
For people older than 60, the vaccine Zostavax was licensed by the FDA in 2006 to prevent shingles. Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. After an attack of chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in certain nerve tissue. As people age, it is possible for the virus to reappear in the form of shingles, which is estimated to affect two in every 10 people in their lifetime. Shingles is characterized by clusters of blisters, which develop on one side of the body. The blisters can cause severe pain that may last for weeks, months or years after the virus reappears. Studies showed that the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles between 50 and 64 percent.
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) should be given to all children at their 11- to 12-year-old doctor visit, as well as to unvaccinated adolescents when they enter high school (age 15) and unvaccinated college freshman living in dormitories.
Get checked and screened
Checkups and screening tests help find diseases or health problems early, when they're easier to treat and cure.
"Your doctor can help you decide which health screenings you should get and how often," says Ms. Trinité.
If you have a chronic condition, follow your health care provider's recommendations for regular checkups and screening exams; they are more important if you have a chronic condition.
Ask your health care provider if your screenings are up-to-date for blood pressure; cholesterol; diabetes; osteoporosis; and skin, breast, colorectal, cervical and prostate cancers. The AHRQ has a list of recommended screening tests for men and women.
Healthy adults also should see a dentist once or twice a year and an eye doctor every one to three years. Adults with dental disease or chronic conditions, or those at high risk for specific diseases should get more frequent exams, as recommended by their provider.
For the best preventive care, you also should talk with your provider openly regarding your health concerns.