I’ve been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years now, and I’ve seen lots of screening and diagnostic tests come and go. Many of the currently prescribed tests are overused and unreliable, and some are downright harmful.
However, there are four tests I believe strongly in, and highly recommend you get:
1. Periodic Blood Workup: A simple blood test can reveal a tremendous amount about your heart attack and diabetes risk, immune and liver function, and more. I recommend getting a complete baseline blood work-up and periodic rechecks if you’re monitoring a specific condition.
2. Regular Blood Pressure Checks: According to the American Heart Association, as many as 72 million Americans have hypertension, 28 percent of them are unaware of it, and a large percentage of those who have been diagnosed have poor blood pressure control. This is why I recommend that everyone over 35 have their blood pressure checked regularly. For the most accurate reading, I recommend getting your own blood pressure monitor and checking it at home periodically.
3. Noninvasive Tests of Heart Function: Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it is important to evaluate the health of your cardiovascular system. While blood tests can help, sometimes we need more direct information about the heart. The best, least invasive methods of getting this information are the exercise stress test and the echocardiogram.
4. Bone Density: Although I don’t recommend bone mineral density screening for everybody, I think it is important for postmenopausal women who are at greatest risk of osteoporosis. The best, most reliable test for this is dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This test is quick, painless, noninvasive, and quite safe—although it does expose you to a very small amount of radiation.
Now it’s your turn: Do you get any of these screening tests?
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