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Adult Health Check Guide: What to Get Screened for and When

Health screenings can identify conditions or diseases before we notice them, which can literally save your life. But it can be hard to keep track of what to get screened for when.

It might be tempting to skip some, but these screenings help you and your doctor assess your risk for developing certain diseases or health conditions that can affect your health and quality of life.

Check out this list and see if you are missing any of these important health screenings. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor.

Preventive screenings for all adults

These tests and screenings are designed to rule out any developing conditions that could affect your health and well-being.

  1. Blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart failure. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all adults get screened for high blood pressure every 3 to 5 years from age 18 to 39. Once you hit 40, time to make this screening an annual event.
  2. Cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can raise your chances of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Adults without a family history of high cholesterol should be screened every 4 to 6 years. If you do have a family history of high cholesterol or other risk factors like diabetes or obesity, your doctor may want to check your cholesterol levelsmore often.
  3. Colorectal cancer. If you’re about to turn 50, go ahead and schedule your first colorectal cancer screening. Your doctor will look for abnormal growths called precancerous polyps that can grow in the lining of the colon or rectum. If nothing looks suspicious and you don’t have any other risk factors, you’ll need a colonoscopy about every 10 years through age 75.
  4. Diabetes. The USPSTF recommends that adults who are overweight or obese undergo a screening for type 2 diabetes between age 40 and 70. If your blood sugar levels are in the normal range, you can generally wait. However, the American Diabetes Association recommends an annual screening for adults over 45 (or younger than 45 who have certain risk factors).
  5. Eye exam. If you haven’t already been getting regular eye checks, it’s time to start. Ideally, you should get a baseline comprehensive eye exam at age 40, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Additional screenings you might need:

  1. Hepatitis C. Baby Boomers, if you haven’t gotten screened for this liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus, it’s past time. If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you’re due for a one-time screening for Hepatitis C infection.
  2. Lung cancer. If you have a history of smoking, talk to your doctor about getting screened for lung cancer.If you currently smoke or quit smoking within the last 15 years, you may be up for a screening.
  3. Skin cancer. The USPSTF hasn’t issued an official recommendation for screenings for skin cancer. That being said, that recommendation is only for people with no signs or symptoms of skin cancer. If you’ve had skin cancer, have a family history of melanoma, or have indulged in some tanning in the past, talk to your doctor about how often you should undergo screening.

Additional screenings for women

  1. Bone density. A bone density test is recommended for all women age 65 and older to gauge how strong their bones are. However, bone density testing may be appropriate for some younger women, too. If you’re younger than 65 and have gone through menopause, ask your doctor about this test.
  2. Breast cancer.
    • Mammograms. Women between age 50 and 74 should get a mammogram every 2 years to screen for breast cancer, according to the USPSTF recommendations. However, women between age 40 and 49 may also want to get a mammogram if they have a family history of breast cancer.
    • Genetic testing. You can also choose to undergo genetic testing if you know you have a history of a genetic mutation like BRCA1 or BRCA2, or Ashkenazi Jewish or Eastern European ancestry, which increases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  1. Cervical cancer. There are two screening tests that can detect early signs of cervical cancer: the Pap smear and the HPV (human papillomavirus) test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that women begin getting Pap tests at age 21. Then, the rule of thumb is a smear every 3 years between age 21 and 29. Women between age 30 and 65 should get a Pap test and HPV test. If you get normal test results, you can probably wait for a follow-up Pap test every three years and a follow-up HPV test every five years.

Additional screening for men

Prostate cancer. If you’re between age 55 and 69, talk to your doctor about whether you should undergo a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Be sure to let your doctor know if you have a family history of prostate cancer, as that could increase your risk. After age 70, you might not need a routine prostate cancer screening.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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