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Book Review: 'Stay Healthy at Every Age' by Shantanu Nundy

July 4, 2010 |  7:36 am

NundyYou've been told you have high cholesterol and need to get the numbers down. But how bad are your levels, really, and what might happen if they don't improve? What's the best way to get them in line? 

Or maybe you have a history of breast cancer in your family and wonder what kinds of screenings you should be getting and when. Should you consider genetic testing?

Dr. Shantanu Nundy addresses these and other preventive healthcare questions in his new book, "Stay Healthy at Every Age: What Your Doctor Wants You to Know." 

Nundy's book was born out of conversations he had with his mother when he was in medical school. She was in her early 50s and had Type 2 diabetes. He was surprised at how little she knew about preventive health measures, despite seeing a doctor regularly and having medical insurance. 

He talked to her about getting screened for colon cancer, taking aspirin every day to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and getting an annual flu shot. Eventually, at her request, he put together a preventive healthcare checklist with additional reading material to help her understand each of the services on the list. 

This became the foundation of Nundy's book, which aims to help readers take charge of their preventive healthcare to improve their chances of living a longer, healthier life. Nundy says he includes only recommendations that have been proved to prevent disease and save lives. "Nothing discussed in this volume is experimental or controversial," he writes. 

The book, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, indeed takes a straightforward, conservative approach both in its presentation and advice. Many of the recommendations come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-sponsored panel of independent experts in prevention and primary care, Nundy says. Information on immunizations comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Readers may want to go first to the checklist section of the book, which outlines the screenings, vaccines, counseling and preventive services recommended for children, women, men and at-risk people at eight stages of their lives, starting at birth.

Later chapters discuss these things in greater depth. Topics covered in a Q&A format include screenings and preventive services for alcohol misuse, blood pressure, various cancers, cholesterol, depression, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, sexually transmitted diseases and tobacco use. The book describes the conditions and outlines causes, prevention, risks, tests, screening risks, results and recommended next steps. It has short chapters on early childhood and pregnancy preventive health. A section on vaccines talks about how they work, who should get them and when, and their risks. 

"Stay Healthy" is not comprehensive -- breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings each have a chapter, but prostate and skin cancer do not, for example. And some discussions are fairly brief. Nevertheless, those who want to better understand common health conditions and determine whether they're getting the recommended preventive care for their age may find it a helpful, trustworthy resource. 

-- Anne Colby

Photo: "Stay Healthy at Every Age: What Your Doctor Wants You to Know," Dr. Shantanu Nundy, Johns Hopkins University Press, $45 hardcover, $18.95 paperback

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