Don’t let heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions sneak up on you. Instead, visit your doctor for regular checkups—even if you’re feeling well. During your visit, he or she may recommend health screenings that can detect diseases early, sometimes before you have any symptoms.
Here are six screenings that can help you stay healthy:
1. Blood pressure.
Nearly half of all Americans older than age 20 have chronic high blood pressure—a top number of 130 or higher, or a bottom number of 80 or higher. Avoiding salty foods, maintaining a healthy weight, and using medication, if necessary, can reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease. Men ages 40 and older should get their blood pressure checked every year.
This simple blood test—after an overnight fast—measures levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, as well as triglycerides. These fats in your blood can affect your risk for heart disease and stroke.
3. Blood glucose.
This simple blood test helps detect type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, which can increase the risk for heart disease and other complications. It’s recommended for adults ages 40 to 70 who are overweight.
During this test, the doctor will examine your colon, looking for signs of cancer and small growths that can become cancerous over time, which can be removed during the test. The American Cancer Society recommends people with an average risk for colorectal cancer get a colonoscopy starting at age 45, while the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises getting your first colonoscopy at age 50. Talk with your doctor about the screening schedule that works best for you.
5. Prostate cancer.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among U.S. men. Starting at age 50 or 55, men should discuss the advantages and limitations of prostate cancer screening with their doctors.
6. Lung cancer.
Compared with men who have never smoked, smokers are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Men who are ages 55 to 80 and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years should ask their doctors if they’re a candidate for a low-dose computed tomography (CT) test screening.