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Checkup Checklist

With exotic gene-based diagnostics and advanced imaging, you can test for plenty of diseases. But should you? Most experts are against full-body MRIs, which pick up minuscule abnormalities that probably won't cause trouble. Instead, they recommend knowing your risk factors -- diseases in the family, lifestyle choices such as smoking, and environmental exposures -- and screening accordingly. Beyond that, the important thing is to pay attention to these common tests:

Blood-Sugar Test

Measures the level of glucose in the blood after an eight-hour fast

Why? Screens for diabetes

When? Every three years, starting at age 45

Body Measurement

Height, weight, waist measurement, and body-mass index

Why? To determine if you're overweight

When? Every two years after age 20


Various tests examine the colon

Why? To detect cancer and growths that may become cancerous

When? Every 5 to 10 years, starting at age 50, depending on doctor's recommendation

Blood Pressure

Measures the amount of pressure the heart generates when beating (systolic) and at rest (diastolic)

Why? Detects hypertension

When? At least every two years after age 20


Electrodes read the heart's electrical impulses

Why? Can detect heart conditions such as irregular rhythm

When? If you are at high risk of heart disease

Skin exam

Doctor looks for irregular moles

Why? Suspicious lesions can signal skin cancer

When? Should always be part of a regular checkup

Cholesterol Test

Blood test that measures "bad" and "good" cholesterol levels

Why? High cholesterol can raise the risk of heart attack

When? Starting at age 45, every five years

C-Reactive Protein

Blood test to detect levels of CRP, produced by the liver in response to injury or infection

Why? High CRP levels can indicate cardiovascular disease and can be a better predictor than high cholesterol levels

When? Necessary only in the presence of known risk factors for heart disease


Pap Test

Cervix cells removed with cotton swab and inspected

Why? To detect cancer of the cervix

When? Every three years


An X-ray of the breast tissue

Why? Detects lumps that could be cancerous

When? Every two years, starting at age 50


Prostate Cancer Screening

A digital rectal exam and/or a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

Why? To check for prostate enlargement or cancer

When? Should be considered at age 50

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