Dr. Laura Davisson shares 10 medical tests adults should have (and 10 they should skip).
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Medical Tests Adults Should Have in Their...
If you are in your...
20s & 30s
1. Body Mass Index (BMI) to screen for obesity Obesity affects one in three Americans and is associated with significant health risks like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. BMI is a calculation of your weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared, and it provides an accurate assessment of your obesity status. A BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity; 25 or greater indicates overweight.
2. Blood pressure measurement Sometimes called “the silent killer” because patients often have no symptoms, high blood pressure, or hypertension, damages arteries and organs, putting you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. Every adult should be screened for high blood pressure every one to two years.
Blood pressure readings consist of two numbers: the first (top) is systolic, and the second (bottom) is diastolic. It only takes a high reading in one number for a high blood pressure diagnosis—140/90 or more is considered high. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, then you have prehypertension. This means you don’t have high blood pressure now, but are at risk. Lower your blood pressure with exercise and a low-salt diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
3. Cholesterol measurement High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease. Some guidelines suggest cholesterol tests at age 35 or older, if you are at low risk for heart disease; others suggest getting your cholesterol checked starting at age 20. Lipid panels require a 12-hour fast prior to testing and include HDL (“good cholesterol”), LDL (“bad cholesterol”), and triglyceride measurements. If your cholesterol is high, decrease dietary saturated fat, maintain a healthy weight, or consider medications if lifestyle changes alone are not successful.
4. HIV test Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can destroy parts of the immune system, leading to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and making you susceptible to infections and cancer. The initial HIV infection is spread through unprotected sex and sharing needles with infected people and often goes unnoticed, causing only a sore throat or common cold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all adults be screened with a simple blood test.
5. Dental exam Oral health affects overall health. Heart disease, premature birth, low birth weight, and even osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to poor oral health. You should brush and floss daily and visit the dentist regularly.
6. WOMEN: Cervical cancer screening Pap tests are strongly associated with reduced cervical cancer and cervical cancer deaths. Most guidelines recommend women start screening at age 21. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is thought to cause cervical cancer, and sometimes HPV testing is done at the same time as a Pap test.
If Pap test results are normal, women can consider repeating testing every three years. For abnormal results, Pap tests should be done more frequently.