II diabetes affects many African Americans after age 40. Early screening is crucial.)
Name: David Dunham, Age: 58, Health concern: diabetes, Symptoms: thirst, frequent urination
Degree of involvement: Dunham always went for a physical each year and asked his doctor to check for diabetes because of family history.
Results: He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes two years after his retirement. He now takes prescribed medicines and daily insulin shots. Dunham also began an exercise regimen.
“In the military, they make you do a physical every year,” says David Dunham, a retired non-commissioned Air Force officer, who always asked to be tested specifically for diabetes. Dunham has a family history with the disease, but through 23 military physicals, the tests were always negative. Dunham was also in good physical condition, working out regularly and staying active. “I used to go to the gym, play basketball, and play softball. I was always on the go,” he says. After retirement, his pattern of physical activity changed. He became more sedentary and gained 25 pounds. He also began to notice other physical changes like a continual urge to urinate, extreme thirst, and very low energy. Dunham’s doctor visit revealed that he had developed Type II diabetes.
When compared with other ethnic groups, “an African American person who gains weight and has a sedentary lifestyle is twice as likely to develop diabetes,” says Mieres. Type II diabetes is particularly prevalent in the African American community and Dunham’s profile fit into a cluster of risk factors.
Diabetes is also a huge risk factor for heart disease. Elevated blood glucose levels destroys the lining of the heart and promotes a build up of plaque in the arteries, which blocks blood flow.
At first, Dunham’s doctor prescribed oral medication. He is now taking daily insulin shots. “It was very hard. The first couple of times, I couldn’t bring myself to stick myself,” he says. He is also taking a low dosage of pills to keep his cholesterol and blood pressure under control. Now Dunham stays active by doing yard work for cardiovascular exercise. He takes his medicine regularly and visits his doctor every six months.
Medical Tests and Screenings For Those in Their 50s
- Routine physical exam
- Blood pressure reading
- Cholesterol test
- Prostate cancer screening
- Colonoscopy to check for polyps and colon cancer
- EKG to check heart rate and rhythm
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR
Find a good match. The doctor-patient relationship should not be adversarial. Use referrals from friends, family, and colleagues to find a doctor with whom you feel comfortable talking to and asking questions.
Know your medical history. To get a thorough analysis, come to your
checkups armed with full knowledge of your personal medical history as well as your family’s history.
Ask questions. Doctor’s seem to have less and less time to speak in depth with patients during visits. Maximize your time by coming prepared with specific questions or specific exams you would like to request.
Get a second opinion. Don’t be afraid to seek out doctors or specialists to get a second opinion or more information about a medical exam