Health: Tests that prevent severe disability or death

It’s been said that if the U.S. Constitution were rewritten afresh, it would not stress the pursuit of happiness, but the pursuit of health. Today, when people get together, discussions eventually turn to health concerns, such as losing weight, blood pressure, bone density or other issues. Now there are tests to indicate the condition of your health. And if tests show an early abnormality, rule #1 is prevention. Rule #2 is never forget rule #1.

Blood Pressure

Hypertension is one of the main causes of heart attack, so what number should you try to maintain? Dr. William Dale, spokesperson for the American Geriatric Society, says “regardless of age, North Americans should shoot for a blood pressure of 130/80. But if you’re over 65 then 150/90 should be fine.” Over this number does not always mean medication.

Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, suggests it’s prudent to first change your lifestyle such as losing weight, exercising 90 minutes weekly, and reducing salt intake below 1,500 milligrams daily. He adds a diet of more fruit, vegetables, high fiber cereal, fish, and poultry may lower blood pressure as much as medication.

As I’ve advised for years, good health is all about lifestyle. Or as a Chinese proverb says, “He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctor.”

Blood Sugar

Today 25% of North Americans over 65 suffer from Type 2 diabetes (better called Lifestyle diabetes). Years ago, Type 1 diabetes, due to genetics, was the main problem. The Diabetes Association recommends everyone should be screened at age 45. A test called HbA1c evaluates what happens to blood sugar over a long period of time. Levels below 5.7 are considered normal. So what should you do if it’s higher?

You must lose weight and the reward is significant. Dr. David Lam, medical director at the Mount Sinai Diabetes Clinical Diabetes Institute in New York, writes in Consumer Reports on Health that patients with pre-diabetes who dropped 7% of their weight, slashed their risk of diabetes by 50%. This should make everyone take notice, as it means a decrease in the risk of coronary attack, blindness, kidney failure and amputation of legs.

Bone Density

Women 65 and older and men 70 and older should have a bone mineral density test done. Your doctor can determine whether your bone density is normal, shows a slight decrease in density (osteopenia), or looks like Swiss cheese (osteoporosis) with risk of fracture.

The American Journal of Nutrition advises women older than 50 and men older than 70 to take 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, 600 IU of vitamin D daily and follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, high fiber cereals, skim milk, and nuts, along with 30 minutes of lifting weights and walking more. This will slow bone mass loss within a year and decrease the risk of a broken hip and possibly spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair, or death.


Large bowel malignancies are the third most commonly diagnosed cancers today. So it’s prudent to give colon cancer your attention, and earlier is better than later. If you wait for symptoms, you may already be in serious trouble. My advice is to get a colonoscopy as early in your midlife as possible. The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) detects blood in the stool, the signal of a problem, but this test can miss an early cancer.

It’s been said if you don’t take care of yourself, the undertaker will. We must all remember that the greatest wealth is our health. And that looking after yourself is not being selfish. It’s a matter of survival.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Central zone has 20 active cases of COVID-19

Province identified 143 new cases across Alberta on Wednesday

Province should set mask policy, says city councillor

Digital conference will raise issues of local concern

Education taxes, ambulance dispatch concern Red Deer city councillors at AUMA meeting

The digital convention will raise issues of local concern

High school’s student’s anti-racism video offers hope

Jose Jordan got dozens of high school students to participate

Trail closed near Red Deer water treatment plant until Nov. 1

Construction on intake in river continuing

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

Missionary plane dedicated at Ponoka, Lacombe airports

MiracleAir flies humanitarian missions to Nicaragua

Back to school preparations put staff and students at risk

A greater percentage of parents in Alberta have chosen online education than in any other province

Michael Dawe: Battle against Typhoid fever was hard for Red Deer to win

Much of Red Deer and central Alberta’s history included outbreaks of serious contagious diseases

Father Henri Voisin School student remembered

Julie Burke Memorial Bench unveiled

Adversity just part of a ‘weird year’ for Montreal Impact: Thierry Henry

Impact look to rebound when they visit the New England Revolution

Tokyo Olympics CEO suggests relaxed entry rules for athletes

IOC consider many scenarios for how games can open on July 23, 2021

Elton John announces new North American dates for final tour

‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour’ returns in 2022

Most Read