someone getting a health screening

A Beginner’s Guide to Health Screenings

Screenings are important. We all know that. They help us catch potential health problems before they become serious. But for some people, screenings are even more important. People who are considered at risk for a certain disease or health condition should get screened regularly to help ensure early detection and treatment. So here are different types of screenings available and how to get them.

Blood Pressure Screening

All adults should check their blood pressure at least once every two years. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure, you may need to be screened more often. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so the only way to know if you have it is to get your blood pressure checked.

You can get a blood pressure screening at your doctor’s office, a community health fair, or even some pharmacies. Just ensure the person taking your blood pressure is using a proper-sized cuff and taking an accurate reading.

Cholesterol Screening

Adults ages 20 and older should check their cholesterol at least once every five years. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, so keeping tabs on your numbers is important. You need to pay attention to two numbers: LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that can build up on your artery walls and cause blockages. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL from your arteries. You want your LDL to be low and your HDL to be high.

A simple blood test can determine your cholesterol levels. If your numbers are not in the healthy range, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or medication to help get them under control.

Oral Health Screening

Did you know that your mouth can give you clues about your overall health? That’s why it’s important to have an oral health screening at least once a year. Your dentist will check for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. You should also let your dental health professional know if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, as these can affect your oral health.

Most dental insurance plans cover at least one oral health screening per year. If you don’t have dental insurance, you can still get an oral health screening at a reduced rate or for free at many dental schools.

Cancer Screenings

While there are many types of cancer, there are only a few screenings that are recommended for most adults. These include:

  • Mammogram to screen for breast cancer (women ages 50 and older)
  • Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer (women ages 21 to 65)
  • Colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer (adults ages 50 and older)

Teen girl talking to doctor after her cancer screening

These screenings are important because they can help catch cancer early when it’s most treatable. Talk to your doctor about which screenings are right for you and when you should have them. Your doctor may also recommend additional screenings if you have a family history of cancer or other risk factors.

Eye Exam

Adults should have a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you may need to be seen more often. During an eye exam, your doctor will check your vision and look for signs of eye disease. He or she will also check the pressure inside your eyes, which can be a sign of glaucoma.

Eye exams are usually covered by insurance, so be sure to check with your provider to see how often you’re covered. You can also get a discounted or free eye exam at many community health fairs.

What to Do if Your Screening Is Abnormal

If your screening test comes back abnormal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. It could just mean that you need to be screened again or that you need further testing to confirm the results. So don’t panic — just make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the next steps.

Here are some tips to stay calm and get the answers you need:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Write down any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, even if they seem unrelated.
  • Bring a list of all the medications and supplements you’re taking.
  • Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor.
  • Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you’re unsure about the next steps.

By getting screened on a regular basis, you can catch any potential problems early on and start treatment before the problem becomes too serious. So don’t skip your screenings — they could save your life!

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