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For most adults, screening for colon cancer starts soon after turning 50. This because the chances of getting colon cancer increase as you get older. According to the CDC, 90% of cases occur in people 50 years or older. However, this doesn’t mean that adults younger than 50 can’t develop colon cancer and it’s important to know if you are at risk.

A history of colon cancer in the family means it could be genetic. If a close relative, generally your parent, sibling or child, has had colorectal polyps or colon cancer it is important to get screenings at a younger age. This risk is even higher if that family member was younger than 45-years-old when they were diagnosed with cancer, or if more than one close relative is affected. Additionally, if you have inflammatory bowel disease, your risk of colon cancer is increased.

Colon cancer forms when abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. These polyps can mutate into cancer and spread throughout the colon. Thankfully, screening tests like a colonoscopy can find the polyps and your physician can remove them during a colonoscopy before they turn into cancer.

Colon cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and there are a number of lifestyle factors that you can be aware of to actively reduce the risk of getting colon cancer. These include getting the recommended amount of physical activity, eating a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy body weight and watching your consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

Even without inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer, it is vital to listen to your body. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment with your doctor.

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Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition where plaque filled with cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels of the heart. As a result, your heart does not get enough blood flow and oxygen, which leads to a variety of conditions ranging from angina to heart attacks. The biggest risk factors for developing CAD are smoking, diabetes and family history. Hypertension, high cholesterol levels and poor lifestyle habits, like lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet, are also risk factors.

The best treatment of CAD is prevention. Quit smoking, control your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You want your LDL (bad cholesterol) to be low, and you want your HDL (good cholesterol) to be high. This can be achieved with diet, exercise and medications.

 

Symptoms of CAD can be vague. Chest pain is the most common symptom, but it can also present as jaw pain, neck pain, arm pain, back pain, shortness of breath or fatigue. Early recognition is key. Contrary to popular belief, women over 55-years-old carry a higher risk than men of the same age. The risk in younger men is higher than in older men.

There are various ways to treat CAD. Medications, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, controlling your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as stents or bypass surgery. A stent is a device that looks like the spring of a ballpoint pen, which keeps arteries open. These are life-saving in situations of a heart attack. Nowadays, open heart bypass surgeries are reserved for extensive blockages in multiple areas of the heart, and/or when the blockage is in a critical part of the heart, which is not suitable for a stent.

The latest in stent technology is bioabsorbable stents, which disappear after their job of keeping the arteries open is done. These are currently being used by myself and other Michigan Heart physicians. If you have questions about CAD, please talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist.

 

 

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a blood disease of the legs, where plaque builds up in the arteries.