Your Plan for Prevention

A guide to the checkups and tests you need

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Even if you feel good, it's still important to get routine medical checkups. "Preventive care is not a sprint but a marathon," says Alex Foxman, MD, a general practitioner in Beverly Hills, California. Use this guide to make your plan. Remember that your health care provider pays for many screenings.

Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (BP) can raise your chances of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. There are usually no symptoms. Get your blood pressure taken every 2 years if yours is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Your doctor may recommend checking your BP more often if it's higher or you are at risk for heart disease or diabetes.

Body Mass Index
Being overweight can lead to health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Body mass index (BMI) helps measure if you are a healthy weight for your height. Have your BMI checked each year or as your doctor recommends.

Breast Cancer
Mammograms help to detect cancers that are too small to see or feel. You should get a mammogram every year if you're aged 40 or older. Check your breasts regularly and tell your doctor about any changes.

Cervical Cancer
A Pap test checks the cervix for problems that could develop into cancer. An HPV test checks the cervix for the human papillomavirus, a leading cause of cervical cancer. If you're aged 30 or older, get a Pap test plus an HPV test, called a cotest, every 5 years.

Get your levels checked every 5 years to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. If you have a family history of heart disease, your doctor may suggest more frequent checks.

Colon Cancer Screening
Most people should be screened for colon cancer beginning at age 45 or 50. If you have a family history of bowel cancer, polyps, or chronic inflammatory bowel disease, ask your doctor if you should be checked sooner.