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Top 10 Screenings andTests for Your 20s and 30s


Updated June 15, 2010

Health screening tests can catch problems before they develop into serious illnesses. While your 20s and 30s will be mostly disease-free, these screening tests that can be performed at your doctor's office can identify trouble spots and give you an opportunity to make changes before illness develops. This list is not comprehensive and your own family history may influence how frequently you need each test, so be sure to talk to your doctor. Use this list to get the ball rolling.

1. Blood Pressure

Taking your blood pressure can be done simply at home or in a doctor's office using a blood pressure cuff. You need two numbers, the systolic "top" number and the diastolic "bottom" number.

  • How Often?: Every two years minimum (should be done at every doctor/dentist visit)
  • Targets: Below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic
  • Benefits: Early warning sign of future cardiovascular problems. If your blood pressure is elevated, work hard on diet and exercise to bring it back down.

2. Cholesterol Level

Your cholesterol level is found through a simple blood test. You need two numbers -- your total cholesterol and your HDL "good" cholesterol.

  • How Often?: At least once every five years, more frequent if you are overweight or have a family history of heart disease or other risk factor.
  • Targets: Total cholesterol below 200 with HDL above 40 (can get more complicated with detailed screening)
  • Benefits: High cholesterol is an early warning sign of heart disease.

3. Dental Check-up

It is easy to put off going to the dentist, but regular cleanings will keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  • How Often?: At least once every year, every 6 months is better.
  • Targets: No cavities or gingivitis.
  • Benefits: Prevent dental problems before they become major and prevent illness from dental infections.

4. Diabetes

Using a simple blood test, your doctor can determine your fasting blood glucose level. This number will tell how well your body can regulate blood sugar.
  • How Often?: If you have a family history of diabetes, are overweight or have high blood pressure you should get tested. Depending on your results, your doctor will tell you when you have to get tested again.
  • Targets: Fasting glucose less than 100.
  • Benefits: Attacking diabetes early can prevent serious complications.

5. For Women: Self and Clinical Breast Exam and Pap Smear

Breast Self Exam An breast self-exam can detect problems early.

  • How Often?: Monthly (though this is controversial)
  • Targets: No lumps
  • Benefits: Early detection of breast cancer.

Clinical Breast Exam Your gynecologist should examine your breasts for lumps and abnormalities that need further testing.

  • How Often?: Every three years
  • Targets: No lumps
  • Benefits:Early detection of breast cancer can improve treatment outcome.

Pap Smear The pap smear is a routine part of gynecological examinations.

  • How Often?: Every 1-3 years
  • Targets: Negative test results
  • Benefits:Can detect cervical cancer early and improve treatment outcomes.

6. Eye Exam

Headaches, fatigue and other problems are often caused by vision problems. Be sure your vision is good and your eyes are healthy.
  • How Often?: At least once every ten years, more if you have vision problems or wear contacts.
  • Targets: Healthy eyes
  • Benefits: Many disease can be detected by an eye doctor, including diabetes.

7. For Men: Testicular Self-Exam

A simple check of the testes can make sure that everything is normal. Feel for lumps, pain and check for changes in size.
  • How Often?: 4 times a year
  • Targets: Walnut shape with a 'tail'
  • Benefits:Helps detect testicular cancer, a common cancer in young men.

8. Skin Cancer Screening

A dermatologist can inspect your skin in just a few minutes. This test is especially important if you have a history of sunburns or tanning.
  • How Often?: 1-3 years
  • Targets: No unusual moles or other signs.
  • Benefits: Early detection of skin cancer helps treatment success.

9. Lifestyle Review

While not a medical test, you should take this opportunity to review your lifestyle. Here are three simple 'tests' to assess your lifestyle:
  • Food Log: Write down everything you eat and drink for a day (including amounts). Review the list for easy calories to drop, bad habits, and opportunities for improvement.
  • Exercise Check: If you are exercising less than 3 times a week, you need to do more.
  • Stress Check: Make a list of things that stress you and things that you do that relax you. Subtract stressors and add relaxers until you have the same number on each list.

10. Immunizations

Immunizations are important to prevent infections and stay healthy. Make sure your vaccines are up to date.
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus) for women
  • Flu vaccine every year
  • Tetanus/Diphtheria every ten years
  • Hepatitis A (if traveling to any part of the world EXCEPT the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia)

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