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Important health tests and screenings you can’t afford to skip

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By Mike Timmermann, clarkhoward.com

When’s the last time you went to the doctor for a checkup? Research has shown that many people, especially men, put off these visits unless they’re feeling sick.

But a visit to the doctor can help you identify an issue early, even before symptoms become apparent.

Checklist: Health screenings for men and women by age

The following guidelines are from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of non-federal experts who are primary care providers.

We’ve broken down the recommendations by age and gender:

Screening tests for women

Blood pressure test

All ages

  • Get tested at least every 2 years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80).
  • Get tested once a year if you have blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89.
  • Discuss treatment with your doctor or nurse if you have blood pressure 140/90 or higher.

Bone mineral density test

Ages 50-64: Discuss with your doctor or nurse if you are at risk of osteoporosis.

Ages 65 and older: Get this test at least once at age 65 or older. Talk to your doctor or nurse about repeat testing.

Breast cancer screening

Ages 40-49: Discuss with your doctor or nurse.

Ages 50-64: Starting at age 50, get screened every 2 years.

Ages 65 and older: Get screened every 2 years through age 74. After 75, ask your doctor or nurse if you need to be screened.

Cervical cancer screening

Ages 18-39: Get a Pap test every 3 years if you are 21 or older and have a cervix. If you are 30 or older, you can get a Pap test and HPV test together every 5 years.

Ages 40-49: Get a Pap test and HPV test together every 5 years if you have a cervix.

Ages 50-64: Get a Pap test and HPV test together every 5 years if you have a cervix.

Ages 65 and older: Ask your doctor or nurse if you need to get a Pap test.

Chlamydia test

Ages 18-39: Get tested for chlamydia yearly through age 24 if you are sexually active or pregnant. Age 25 and older, get tested for chlamydia if you are at increased risk, pregnant or not pregnant.

Ages 40-49: Get tested for chlamydia if you are sexually active and at increased risk, pregnant or not pregnant.

Ages 50-64: Get tested for chlamydia if you are sexually active and at increased risk.

Ages 65 and older: Get tested for chlamydia if you are sexually active and at increased risk.

Cholesterol test

Ages 20 and older: Get a cholesterol test regularly if you are at increased risk for heart disease. Ask your doctor or nurse how often you need your cholesterol tested.

Colorectal cancer screening

Ages 50-64: Starting at age 50, get screened for colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor or nurse about which screening test is best for you and how often you need it.

Ages 65 and older: Get screened for colorectal cancer through age 75.

Diabetes screening

All ages: Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.

Gonorrhea test

All ages: Get tested for gonorrhea if you are sexually active and at increased risk.

HIV test

All ages: Get tested for HIV at least once. Discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse because you may need more frequent tests. All pregnant women need to be tested for HIV.

Syphilis test

All ages: Get tested for syphilis if you are at increased risk or pregnant.

Screening tests for men

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening

Ages 65 and older: Get this one-time screening if you are age 65 to 75 and have ever smoked.

Blood pressure test

All ages

  • Get tested at least every 2 years if you have normal blood pressure (lower than 120/80).
  • Get tested once a year if you have blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89.
  • Discuss treatment with your doctor or nurse if you have blood pressure 140/90 or higher.

Cholesterol test

Ages 20 and older: Get a cholesterol test if you are at increased risk for heart disease.

Ages 35 and older: Get a cholesterol test regularly. Ask your doctor or nurse how often you need your cholesterol tested.

Colorectal cancer screening

Ages 50–64: Starting at age 50, get screened for colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor or nurse about which screening test is best for you and how often you need it.

Ages 65 and older: Get screened for colorectal cancer through age 75.

Diabetes screening

All ages: Get screened for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80 or if you take medicine for high blood pressure.

HIV test

All ages: Get tested if you are at increased risk for HIV. Discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse.

Syphilis screening

All ages: Get tested for syphilis if you are at increased risk.

What you need to know

Depending on your personal health, your doctor may modify these guidelines, which is why it’s so important to get an annual checkup from a real physician — not Dr. Google.

In addition, this list does not cover every type of screening available.

For instance, a dermatologist may require annual or semi-annual examinations for people at high-risk of skin cancer, but a self-exam may be suitable for others.

Since the tests are preventive, your insurance will likely cover them at no cost to you.

At HealthFinder.gov, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a section dedicated to low cost health care, which can help you find free testing sites where you live.

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