If you find the problem early, it'll more likely be easier to treat: that's why you want to make time for health screenings. Here are five important tests to help keep tabs on your health:
Heart health checks. High blood pressure and cholesterol are major risk factors for heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the USA. Get your blood pressure checked at least every two years and more frequently if it's elevated. For cholesterol, people age 20 or older should have their blood tested once every five years and more often if your numbers are high.
Mammograms. A recent Dutch study suggests mammograms reduce the risk of breast cancer death by nearly half. The American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advocate annual mammograms starting at age 40; the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says women should wait until 50, then get the test every two years. Talk to your doctor, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer.
Pap smears. Cervical cancer was once a top cancer killer for women, but death rates dropped significantly over the past several decades, thanks to the power of the Pap. The test can detect changes in the cervix before cancer develops; it also can find cervical cancer early, at its most curable stage. A number of groups most recently proposed the test be done every three years, starting at age 21 and stopping at 65 if recent screenings were normal.
Colorectal screening. Make your first appointment when you turn 50; if you're at an increased risk, your doctor may suggest earlier testing.
Blood sugar tests. Some 7 million Americans have diabetes and don't know it -- but with such potential complications as heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease and nerve damage, that's information you need to know. The American Diabetes Association recommends glucose screening beginning at age 45 (especially if you are overweight), to be repeated every three years if the results are normal.
- The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.