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 children at an early age then every 5 years for people age 20 or older who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease. 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. The USPSTF recommeds that women who are 50 to 74 years old and are at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every two years. Women should weigh the benefits and risks of screening tests when deciding whether to begin getting mammograms before age 50. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Protecting Your Eyes. You may not have considered this, but at some point before you reach age 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.
Screening Hepatitis C. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 18 get tested for Hepatitis C. If you haven't been screened, you should consider having it done.
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.