Climbing mountains. Digging trenches. Swimming rivers, even oceans, or soaring through the air. Our bodies are only human, but sometimes they can seem like superhuman things!
To serve us so well, our bodies work hard, sometimes under less-than-ideal conditions. So let’s talk about some of the screenings and tests doctors and insurance companies recommend for keeping you in tip-top shape. Even if you feel 100% healthy, health screenings can make a big difference in helping you stay that way and enjoy greater well-being.
Ask your doctor about the tests and checks you need to take care of your body. It’s the only one you have, so keep it working for you!
Top 10 screenings for men AND women
Here are 10 of the most common health screenings for both men and women. As always, follow your doctor’s advice on which tests to take, and how often to take them.
- Cholesterol Screening/Lipid Profile – Start screenings at age 20, and every 5 years afterward.
- Blood Pressure – Check at least once a year, from childhood onward.
- Diabetes Screening – Have one every year after age 45; be screened earlier and more often depending on risk factors.
- Bone Density Test – Get one every 5 years starting at age 65, or sooner and more often based on risk factors.
- Colon Cancer Screening – Plan to have a colonoscopy at age 50, and every 10 years after. If you have symptoms or risk factors, your doctor may recommend you have a colonoscopy more frequently.
- Eye Exams and Vision Screening – Start at age 18, and then get checked every 1 to 3 years after, or more frequently if you have diabetes.
- Hearing Test – Every 10 years for adults up to age 50, and every 3 years afterward.
- Skin Cancer Screening – You can start at any age, and do this check yourself. Just look carefully at your skin each month for new mole growth or changes to moles you already have. If you see something that makes you wonder, have it checked out.
- Vitamin D Test – Many people, men and women both, have low levels of vitamin D. This is a problem, since vitamin D helps protect against cancer, infection, and weakening of the bones. This bone weakness – osteoporosis – is common in both men and women, and a major cause of related health problems. The vitamin D screening is a simple blood test, and is recommended by doctors for people over 40, and yearly after age 45.
- Dental Exam – Yes, a dental exam. Gum, tooth, and mouth health is linked to physical health. See your dentist once a year for cleaning and a checkup.
Women's studies: screenings and tests for women
- Pregnancy Diabetes Screenings – If you become pregnant, talk to your doctor about diabetes testing.
- Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear – Every year starting at age 21, or within three years of starting sexual activity.
- Physical Breast Exams – Start checking your own breasts for lumps, thickening, changes in the skin, or discharge from the nipples around age 18. But you should also have your breasts checked by a medical professional. This can be done at the same time as your pelvic examination.
- Mammograms – Every year after age 40. If someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with breast cancer, earlier is better. Experts suggest starting mammograms 5 to 10 years younger than your relative’s age when she was diagnosed.
Screenings for men: prostate screenings
Experts agree that men should have regular checks for prostate cancer from age 50 onward. If you’re having trouble urinating, your doctor will probably want to check sooner.African-American men and men with a history of prostate cancer in their families should talk to their doctors about screening from age 45.
Metabolic Syndrome: an early warning system for diabetes and heart disease in both women and men.
You may not have heard much about Metabolic Syndrome. But you probably will. Basically, Metabolic Syndrome is a sort of “pre-condition” that can serve as a yellow flag for diabetes or heart disease. Starting at age 50, doctors recommend something called the “C-Reactive Protein (CRP)” blood test every three years for women with three or more of the following risk factors:
- Waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women, or 40 inches for men.
- Low “good” cholesterol (less than 50 mg/dL for women, and less than 40 mg/dL for men).
- Increased triglycerides (more than 150 mg/dL).
- Blood pressure above 130/85.
- Fasting glucose over 100 mg/dL.
The blood test is simple, and can be taken at the same time as cholesterol and diabetes tests.