A Picture of Health: 5 Tests to Get

The next time you’re at the doctor’s office, make sure you ask about these tests:

In your 30s

Blood pressure
Blood pressure rises with age, so start tracking it early. Anything above 140/90 can lead to stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.

Skin check
Skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S., is largely preventable if caught early. Ask your dermatologist for an annual skin check, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer, fair skin, light eyes or moles.

Pap smear, pelvic and breast exam
Early stages of breast, cervical and ovarian cancers display very few obvious symptoms, which is why an annual professional exam is critical.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone test
Thyroid disease affects many women during their childbearing years—10 percent develop the condition after pregnancy.

Vitamin D blood level
Vitamin D deficiency, an epidemic in areas that aren’t very sunny (like Illinois from November through February), can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and osteoporosis.

In your 40s

Vision screening
Having trouble reading the fine print? Around the age of 40, most people start to experience age-related loss of near focusing ability.

Cholesterol check
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. If your total cholesterol is above 200, you’ll need a lipoprotein profile to look at your HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels.

It’s still the best way to detect breast cancer and should be done annually starting at age 40. Women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should consider genetic testing to see if they carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.

A physical
A pap smear does not count as a physical—both men and women should see an internist every few years starting at age 40.

Dental screening
Oral cancer is 90 percent curable if found early, but it spreads fast. The American Cancer Society recommends annual oral cancer screenings after age 40.

In your 50s

By age 50, one in five people have colon polyps. Because a colonoscopy can find and remove pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps early, it’s a highly effective tool in preventing colorectal cancer.

Fecal occult blood test
This non-invasive test detects microscopic traces of blood in the stool and is considered a good backup to the colonoscopy.

Blood glucose test
If you are overweight and over the age of 45, get your blood glucose levels measured to determine whether you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

PSA-Prostate exam
A blood test—combined with the dreaded rectal exam—is the most effective way to detect prostate cancer, curable in its early stages.

Bone density scan
Determine your risk of osteoporosis—a debilitating bone disease—early, so you can take advantage of a number of treatments.

In your 60s and beyond

What’s that you said? If you find yourself frequently asking people to repeat themselves, it’s time to schedule a hearing test.

Screening for age-related eye diseases
Protect your eyes from preventable eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Heart screenings
If you have high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease, you may need an EKG or exercise stress test.

Mental status exam
A high score on a mental status exam can indicate Alzheimer’s disease, the second leading cause of death in people age 65 or older. While there’s no cure for the disease, drugs to treat it work best when they’re given early.

Balance test
Balance disorders—caused by heart problems, medications, circulation problems and inner ear infections—are one of the main reasons why elderly people fall.

Source: Kidney Atlas