Smart Medical Tests


Most of us practice preventive medicine with our children and preventive maintenance with our cars and appliances. We’re rarely as proactive about self care, limiting visits to our health practitioner to when we feel sick. Add a plan for healthy self maintenance to your fitness activity by using the chart below to learn what tests are important and when you should schedule them.


What to Get When

How Often

Keep in Mind

Beginning at age 18—Self Exams

Breast self-exam

Monthly (women)

Probe a week after your period ends. Any lump requires review by your physician.

Skin self-exam


Moles that are ragged, multicolored, have changed shape, or are wider than a pencil eraser require a doctor’s attention.

Abdominal Measurement


Goal for women is <35 inches; men < 40 inches. A higher result requires a visit to a doctor for heart disease and diabetes risk review.

Note: Have a tetanus-diphtheria shot every ten years.

Note: At any time in life, if you have a hysterectomy or are treated for cancer, request a bone density assessment before surgery or before treatment begins. Repeat the assessment in 6-12 months to find out if bone health has been compromised.

Beginning at age 18, see your doctor for

Pelvic exam; Pap “smear”; Clinical breast exam


These exams screen for cancers and sexually transmitted diseases.

Hearing exam

Every ten years.

After age 50, get tested more often—especially if you use earphones to listen to music. .

Chlalmydia and other sexually transmitted diseases including HIV

Pregnant or planning to be.

Recommended even for women in monogamous relationships.

At age 20+, add the following

Blood pressure reading

Every two years.

More frequent readings may  be scheduled by your physician.

Dental checkup

Every 6-12 months; x-rays every other year.

Cleaning should be a part of the checkup; it helps prevent gum disease. Floss regularly—plaque from your mouth can dislodge and attach itself to the arteries to your heart.

Fasting lipoprotein profile

Every five years.

This blood test for triglycerides (fat in blood) and cholesterol levels (for tendency to form plaque in arteries) screens for heart disease, our #1 killer.

At age 35+, add the following

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test

Every five years.

One in eight women will suffer from a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.

At age 40+, for women only



Screen earlier if there’s a family history of breast cancer.

At age 45+, add the following

Fasting glucose and, if you have a family history of diabetes, add glycohemoglobin (A1C)a

Can be added to annual blood test. Every six months if you have a genetic tendency to diabetes or are more than 20 pounds overweight.

A1C measures how well blood glucose has been controlled in recent months. Those with diabetes are advised to keep their level at less than seven percent.

hsCRP (highly sensitive C reactive protein)



Can be added to annual blood test, if at risk; if not, every three years.

Recommended for those who have a family history of heart disease.

At 50+, add the following

Bone mineral density test (for osteoporosis)

Annually, if bone density is low or you are being treated for osteoporosis; every five years, if bone density is high.

Recommended for all postmenopausal women and those at risk for osteoporosis (e.g., cancer patients, women whose ovaries have been removed). Men get osteoporosis too but testing for them typically begins ten years later.

Fecal occult blood test


Tests for blood in stool. This is only 40 percent accurate but it is a test you can do at home.

Double contrast barium enema or flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy

Annually if you have gastric reflux disease or blood in stool.

Rules out colorectal cancer. Start screening earlier if you have an inflammatory bowel disease or your parent, child, or sibling has had colorectal cancer.

Note: Ask your doctor if you should take a flu shot.

At 65, add the following

Ask your doctor if you should take a (one time) pneumonia shot.

For Men Only

PSA test

Annually in men over age 55; earlier for African American men or if a relative has been diagnosed with prostate cancer

Detects prostate cancer better than the digital rectal exam. Note: Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men; average age of patients at time of diagnosis is 70.


Family history, race, and gender all play a role in your risk of developing a disease. The best prevention is regular exercise and a healthy diet.


Keep a personal/family notebook. I use a notebook with pocket holders in the dividers to keep lab results, tests, important information, and forms. This makes record keeping simple. You can also visit and get a downloadable form of the chart above to record screening dates.


© LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates