Making time to get screened is a healthy habit, like all your other ones—eating well, moving your body, and being mindful! Below, check out these essential health screenings—it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start!
Different countries have different age and frequency recommendations for these screenings, and every individual is different, so it’s important to talk to your health care professional to find out when these screenings are best for you.
It’s also important to remember that “screenings” are often not just used to tell if you have an illness or not. Screenings tests can detect diseases early before any symptoms show up! If something comes up in a screening test, you may benefit from easier, more effective treatment.
Who: Everyone, on a regular basis, especially those with cardiovascular (heart) risk factors
How: At your doctor’s office, or even at some drug stores
Why: High blood pressure is the biggest risk for heart disease and a significant risk for other serious conditions
Who: Everyone, on a regular basis, especially if you smoke, are overweight, or have a family history of heart disease
How: A blood test
Why: To determine the risk of heart disease
Who: Usually screening starts at the age 50, however, if you have family history, screening could start earlier
How: There are different tests, but most often your doctor will recommend doing a FOBT (Faecal occult blood test) every two years
Why: To look for hidden blood in the stool
Who: Everyone should pay attention to their mental health throughout their life and talk to a health professional if you experience symptoms
How: Keep track of changes in your appetite, sleeping patterns, loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed, feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or anxiousness, decreased energy, or difficulty concentrating
Why: Depression can be treated
Who: If you’ve got high blood pressure, are overweight or obese, or have symptoms of diabetes like severe thirst, frequent urination, unexpected weight loss, increased hunger, or tingling in your hands and feet
How: A blood test
Why: Diabetes and pre-diabetes are diagnosed by measuring blood sugar levels. The good news is that if you are pre-diabetic you can change your lifestyle and prevent diabetes.
Who: If you were born between 1945 and 1965, received a blood transfusion before 1992, or ever injected drugs
How: A blood test
Why: Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer in the United States
Who: Everyone should talk to their health professional about getting screened
How: A blood test
Why: HIV attacks the body’s white blood cells, weakening the immune system
Who: Everyone should keep track of their body weight
How: At home, you can use a BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator to determine if you’re in the healthy range. If your BMI is too high, you can talk to your doctor for further assessment and treatment.
Why: Being overweight and obese can lead to serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and more
Bone Density Screening
Who: Most women should start getting screened for osteoporosis around the age of 65, and men after 70—but talk to your health professional about when it’s right for you
How: A test called a DEXA scan where a low-dose X-ray machine captures images of your bones
Why: This test can help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis before a fracture occurs, or detect low bone mass before osteoporosis develops
Who: Everyone should examine their skin regularly for new moles, or existing moles that change
How: Scan your body and make notes/take photos for comparison. If there are any concerns or changes, talk to your health professional.
Why: Early detection of skin cancer
Men: Prostate Cancer
Who: Men should discuss this with their health care professional, but the recommendations about this screening vary greatly among health professionals, so it’s important to discuss the benefits and risks of screening
How: Usually a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a blood test
Why: Screening may detect cancer early and make it easier to treat
Men: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Who: Between ages 65-75, if you’ve smoked or if your doctor thinks you’re at risk
How: An imaging test (CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI)
Why: The test looks for an aortic aneurysm—a bulge or weakening of blood vessel walls of the aorta, the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart—which could rupture and cause fatal internal bleeding
Women: Pap Smears
Who: Women should have these done regularly from their 20s every 3 years
How: Your doctor will use a speculum to widen the vaginal canal and remove some cells from the surface
Why: Can detect abnormal cells
Who: Women should talk to their doctors about when and how often to schedule a mammogram. For lower-risk people, screenings may start in your 40s or 50s.
How: A test that involves compressing the breasts between two plates so that X-ray images can be captured
Why: Early detection of abnormal masses
We’ve mentioned only some of the screenings available, but dental, eye, and hearing exams are important, too! For more information, talk to your doctor about what’s right for you—the right tests and the right times for testing.