From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
Stay Healthy at Any Age
Getting regular checkups, preventive screening tests, and immunizations are among the most important things you can do for yourself. Take time to review these guidelines for screening tests. Then, become a partner with your doctor or nurse to decide when you need your screenings and immunizations. Share your family history, speak up, voice your concerns, and always ask questions. For instance, if your doctor or nurse asks you to increase the amount you exercise, ask for examples of exercises that are best for you. If you are confused about how to do a breast self-exam, ask and practice until you understand and feel comfortable doing it. If you are wondering if you need certain screenings, ask your doctor or nurse. You owe it to yourself.
Get the Screenings You Need
Screenings are tests that look for diseases before you have symptoms. Blood pressure checks and mammograms are examples of screenings.
You can get some screenings, such as blood pressure readings, in your doctor's office. Others, such as mammograms, need special equipment, so you may need to go to a different office.
After a screening test, ask when you will see the results and who to talk to about them.
Overweight and obesity: The best way to learn if you are overweight or obese is to find your body mass index (BMI). You can find your BMI by entering your height and weight into a BMI calculator. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 indicates a normal weight. Persons with a BMI of 30 or higher may be obese. If you are obese, talk to your doctor or nurse about seeking intensive counseling and help with changing your behaviors to lose weight. Overweight and obesity can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Thyroid (TSH) test: Discuss with your health care professional
HIV test: Talk with your health care team about HIV screening if any of these apply to you:
- You have had unprotected sex with multiple partners.
- You have injected drugs.
- You exchange sex for money or drugs or have sex partners who do.
- You have or had a sex partner who is HIV-infected, bisexual, or injects drugs.
- You are being treated for a sexually transmitted disease.
- You had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985.
- You have any other concerns.
Blood pressure: Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every 2 years. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. High blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney and eye problems, and heart failure.
Cholesterol: Starting at age 20 have your cholesterol checked regularly if:
- You use tobacco.
- You are obese.
- You have diabetes or high blood pressure.
- You have a personal history of heart disease or blocked arteries.
- A man in your family had a heart attack before age 50 or a woman, before age 60.
Osteoporosis (bone thinning): Have a screening test at age 65 to make sure your bones are strong. If you are younger than 65, talk to your health care team about whether you should be tested.
Diabetes: Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medication for high blood pressure. Diabetes (high blood sugar) can cause problems with your heart, brain, eyes, feet, kidneys, nerves, and other body parts.
Breast cancer: Ask your health care team whether a mammogram is right for you based on your age, family history, overall health, and personal concerns.
Cervical cancer: Have a Pap smear every 1 to 3 years if you are 21 to 65 years old and have been sexually active. If you are older than 65 and recent Pap smears were normal, you do not need a Pap smear. If you have had a hysterectomy for a reason other than cancer, you do not need a Pap smear.
Pelvic exam: Yearly beginning at age 21. Women younger than 21 who are sexually active should discuss the test with a health care professional.
Chlamydia test: Have a screening test for chlamydia if you are 24 or younger and sexually active. If you are older than 24, talk to your health care team about being screened for chlamydia.
Sexually transmitted infections: Ask your doctor or nurse whether you should be screened for other sexually transmitted diseases.
Mental health screening: Your emotional health is as important as your physical health. Talk to your health care team about being screened for depression, especially if during the last 2 weeks:
- You have felt down, sad, or hopeless.
- You have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things.
Colorectal cancer: Have a screening test for colorectal cancer starting at age 50. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you may need to be screened earlier. Several different tests can detect this cancer. Your health care team can help you decide which is best for you.
Skin health: Monthly mole self-exam; exam by a health care professional as part of a rountin full checkup starting at age 20.
Screening Test Checklist
Take this checklist with you to your doctor's office and fill it out when you have had any of the tests listed below. Talk to your doctor about when you should have these tests next, and note the month and year in the right-hand column.
Also, talk to your doctor about which of the other tests listed below you should have in the future, and when you need them.