The kids have had their pre-start-of-school shots and go-arounds with tongue depressors. Now isn’t it time you took stock of your own health? Just say “aaaaaaahhhhhh.”
Top Tests Worth Taking …
While you’ve left the algebra and chemistry tests behind, there are a handful of tests you should consider taking on a regular basis, according to the American Medical Association Family Medical Guide, 4th Edition (Wiley, $45). The following are just general recommendations — you and your doctor should tailor your tests to fit your health needs.
In your 20s, get a:
• Physical every one to two years
• Pelvic exam annually
• Pap smear, every six months to annually
• Cholesterol test only if you smoke, are obese, or have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease
In your 30s:
Stick with everything you were doing (or should have done) in your 20s, but add a cholesterol test every five years.
In your 40s:
Keep on keeping on. Women, add a mammogram once a year or every other year, and if you’re approaching menopause, get a bone density test. Menshould start getting prostate examinations at age 45.
In your 50s and beyond:
Continue what you’ve been doing, but add:
• An annual rectal exam and fecal occult blood test
• A sigmoidoscopy every five years
• A colonoscopy every 10 years
… and Some Worth Holding Out On
With all these tests to take, you’ll be glad to know there are a few you maybe able to skip. A study from Georgetown University Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University made it clear that some medical tests are overused — and false positives on those tests add insult (and expense) to lack of injury (or illness). Topping the list of unnecessary exams: urinalysis. “If you’re a 30-year-old male or female without any medical problems, you’re probably going to run into some problems by just ordering that test,” says the study’s lead author, Dan Merenstein, MD, director of research programs in the Department of Family Medicine at Georgetown. Other not-always-necessary exams sitting pretty on the overuse list: electrocardiograms, X-rays, hematocrits, and complete blood counts (or CBCs to you ER and Grey’s Anatomy fans).
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