If the last physical you got was for school, then chances are you’re due for another one. Annual physicals aren’t one of those things you can put off until you’re older — just like you’d take your brand new car in for routine maintenance, your body needs some upkeep, too. Preventive health screenings are a big part of that.
Unfortunately, too many 20- and 30-somethings don’t get the preventive care they need: A whopping 93 percent of millennials even avoid basic checkups, according to Forbes. And that’s too bad, given the lifesaving potential of health exams and screenings for both men and women.
Sure, you may not need every screening under the sun at 30, but if you’re trying to predict what your health will look like in the future, you don’t need a fortuneteller — just a chat with your doctor. Here are a few helpful screenings to start with.
1. Blood Pressure Reading
Experts recommend getting blood pressure screenings every two years between the ages of 18 and 39 — and even more often than that if you have an existing health condition or if your previous readings were high (above 120 for the top number or 80 for the bottom number). Because high blood pressure can cause a litany of problems — from stroke and sexual dysfunction to vision loss and organ failure — it’s best to get this one checked out pronto, especially if you’ve waited until 30 to head in for a test.
2. Cholesterol and Triglyceride Screening
A lipid profile screening uses a small blood sample to check the levels of lipids (like triglycerides and cholesterol) in your blood. High levels could indicate a stroke or heart attack is coming your way. Women should get their first one between 20 and 45, while men should get theirs done before 35 — although everyone should get it done earlier if they have an underlying health issue like diabetes or heart disease.
3. Diabetes Screening
Men and women with high blood pressure (above 139/79 mm Hg) may need a blood glucose screening to test for diabetes. The doctor may also want to test you if your body mass index is over 25 and you have other health issues or a family history of diabetes. If you do have diabetes, you’ll need an eye exam at least once a year.
4. Women’s Health Screenings
Women will need a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer once every three to five years, depending on your previous test results and your doctor’s recommendation. And looking into the future a little bit, it’s a good idea to keep mammograms in the back of your mind. Most women don’t need to start getting mammograms until they reach 40, but depending on your genetic and family risk factors, you may need to start at age 30. Ask your doctor what’s best for you.
5. Colorectal Checks
Though colon cancer screenings like colonoscopies aren’t recommended until age 50 for normal-risk patients, rates of colon cancer have been steadily going up for young people. That’s why it’s key to pay attention to your bowel habits. If you notice any changes (like blood in the toilet bowl), tell your doctor right away. Your first colonoscopy might need to come sooner than you originally thought.
Unsure? Ask Your Doctor
Keep in mind that these are just suggestions. Health needs vary wildly from person to person — your family history, environmental hazards and lifestyle habits all come into play. To learn what’s right for you and when, find a primary care doctor you can trust. They can help guide you toward the right health screenings as you get older to give your body the routine maintenance it needs.