Published on July 20, 2015

Check up on your health

A little prevention goes a long way

What if an ounce of prevention is worth a lot more than a pound of cure? What if it’s worth years of your life?

Well, health screening tests are like an ounce of prevention. Most of them—including blood tests and even mammograms—take less than an hour. But they could add years to your life. That’s because they can find health problems early.

“There are many chronic conditions that can be prevented and better managed if diagnosed early,” says Omeche Idoko, MD, a family medicine physician with Mercy Philadelphia.

Take high blood pressure, for example. You could have it and feel fine—for now. But if it’s not treated, it could be fatal. A simple screening test and treatment could save your life.

“See your doctor for a checkup every year,” Dr. Idoko says. “That’s when we go over what screening tests you need. Early diagnosis is key to protecting your health.”

How to keep track

Are you ready to talk to your primary care provider about which tests you need? Take this chart to your next appointment, and you can check which screenings are right for you.

Check up on your health chart

Who? What? When? How Often?
Men and Women Blood pressure Age 18 At least every 2 years
Cholesterol (blood test) Age 20 Every 5 years
Colon cancer (colonoscopy) Age 50* Every 10 years
Diabetes (blood test) Age 45 Every 3 years
Hepatitis C (blood test) Now, if you’ve never been tested
  • Once for baby boomers and people who had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Regularly for people who inject street drugs
HIV (blood test) Now, if you’ve never been tested
  • At least once for everyone
  • People at high risk for HIV should be tested every 6 to 12 months
Lung cancer (X-ray or CT scan) Between 55 and 80 At least once for smokers and those who quit smoking within the last 15 years
Osteoporosis (bone density scan) Age 65 for women and 70 for men At least once
Skin cancer (visual check) Age 20 Every year
Men Abdominal aortic aneurysm (ultrasound) Between 65 and 75—if you have ever smoked At least once
Prostate cancer (blood test) Discuss with your provider Discuss with your provider
Women Breast cancer (mammogram) Age 40 Every year
Cervical cancer (Pap test) Age 21 Every 3 years

*Recommended at a younger age for those with family history of colon cancer.