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.The CDC recommends screening once between ages 9 and 11 (before puberty), once between ages 17 and 21 (after puberty), and every 4 to 6 years thereafter. People with a family history of heart disease and children with obesity and diabetes should have their cholesterol checked more often.
- For Women Only: Pelvic Exam and Pap. You knew it was coming -- the pelvic exam, breast exam, and Pap smear. Ten minutes of mild discomfort from the pelvic exam pays big dividends in protecting you from cancer and diseases that can cause infertility. Pap testing should begin at age 21. Routine screening is recommended every three years for women ages 21 to 65. For women ages 30 to 65 who have a normal Pap test with a negative HPV test, screening can be done every five years. Sexually active women ages 24 and younger also need to have a gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV screening. For women at average risk for breast cancer who don't have symptoms, clinical breast exams are recommended every 1-3 years for women ages 25 to 39 and every year for women ages 40 and older.
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.