Going to the doctor may be the last thing on your mind right now, but regular check-ups may save your health -- and your life -- later.
Starting in your 20s and 30s, your doctor can perform or recommend a number of simple tests to look for problems that can rob people of their health. Here's a list of the basic tests you should ask for. (Note that your doctor may recommend additional tests based on your personal health profile.)
- Stepping on the Scales. We all hate to do it, but weight -- rather, too much of it -- puts you at high risk for developing a number of diseases later in life.
- Blood Pressure. It's simple, it's cheap and it's quick. Your heart (and arteries, brain, eyes, and kidneys) will thank you later.
- Cholesterol Profile. You do have to have blood drawn for a cholesterol test, but it's worth it. Everyone age 20 and over should know their cholesterol numbers, and get them checked at least once every four to six years.
- For Women Only: Pelvic Exam and Pap. You knew it was coming -- the pelvic exam, and Pap smear. 10 minutes of mild discomfort from the pelvic exam pays big dividends in protecting you from cancer and diseases that can cause infertility. Pap screen testing should begin at age 21. Routine screening is recommended every three years for women 21-65 years old. For women 30 to 65 years who have a normal Pap test with a negative HPV test, screening can be done every five years. Sexually active women 24 years old and younger also need to have a gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV screening.
- Protecting Your Eyes. You may not have considered this, but at some point before you're 40, visit an eye care provider for an exam. (Go more often if you have vision problems).
- Checking Your Immunizations. Be sure to ask your doctor to update any immunizations that you might need.
Each year around your birthday, give yourself a gift. Schedule a visit to your dentist and call your doctor to see if there are important tests you should take. With an investment of an hour or two, you may be able to add years to your life.