Young and Healthy? You Still Need Preventive Screenings
Do you feel healthy now? Great! However, that doesn’t give you a free pass on visiting your health care provider for preventive screenings.
Preventive health care is pretty self-explanatory—it helps prevent diseases. It can also find problems early, when they’re most treatable. The goal with screenings is to keep you feeling as well as you do today.
Make an appointment with your provider and find out which screenings you should receive. They’ll likely include the four listed below, which can help detect some of the most common yet preventable diseases.
You can’t feel high blood pressure, so you probably won’t know whether you have it unless you get it checked. If left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends getting your blood pressure checked starting at age 20. If it’s normal, you may only need to have it checked every two years. If your blood pressure is high, your doctor may recommend checking it more often. A healthy blood pressure is lower than 120/80 mmHg.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up inside your arteries. Over time it can narrow your arteries and increase your risk for a blood clot, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. You should start having your cholesterol levels checked at age 20. If your result is normal, you need to have it checked every four to six years. If your cholesterol is high, your doctor may check it more frequently. A healthy total cholesterol level is lower than 200 mg/dl.
Body Mass Index
Body mass index (BMI) estimates how much body fat you have based on your height and weight. The higher your BMI is, the greater your risk is of developing certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. Your doctor may check your BMI starting in childhood. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. If your BMI is in the overweight or obese range, your doctor may recommend that you lose weight. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight—that’s 10 to 20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds—can improve your health.
Women can get two screening tests that can help prevent cervical cancer or detect it in its earliest stages. A Pap test checks for precancerous cells on the cervix that could become cervical cancer if left untreated. An HPV test checks for the human papillomavirus, which can cause cell changes that may lead to cervical cancer. Women should start receiving cervical cancer screenings starting at age 21. Talk with your doctor about which test—and testing schedule—is right for you.