You’d rather get in a brisk run as a healthy way to ring in the New Year instead of being stuck in a stuffy doctor’s office? Fair enough. But heed this: Taking time to get your health checkups done now will make for a more beautiful year.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t even know where to start!” we’ve got you covered with the simple must-dos on your physical checklist. Every test is designed to suss out sneaky health issues that could stress you out and wreak havoc on your beauty.
Test: A physical exam with your general practitioner
When: Every year, period.
Why: Within 30 minutes, your doctor can conduct several measures of your general health.
With a physical, your doctor has different tests at her disposal to explore your personal health story and identify any red flags.
Blood pressure: Doctors look for hypertension, or high blood pressure, over 140/90 mmHg. No need to fret if you’re slightly high since physicians don’t take drastic measures after one reading.
“Hypertension is diagnosed after three readings,” YouBeauty Wellness Advisor Beth Ricanati, M.D. says. “It can go up because you missed the subway and are panicked that you’re late for your appointment,” she says. Additional readings when you're relaxed will establish a better baseline and help your doctor know if she should do further tests or consider medicine.
In the meantime, talk to your doc about a lifestyle plan that can help take some strain off your heart and help prevent heart disease. For instance, aiming for 10,000 steps per day can keep stress hormones and blood pressure in check.
Also, you can try following the heart-healthy DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which focuses on figure-flattering foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats and fish. The diet makes sure you get plenty of potassium (4,700mg daily) and fiber, with less sodium (less than a teaspoon a day, if possible).
What if your reading is lower than normal? “Low blood pressure is less likely,” says Dr. Ricanati. “It’s usually a good thing—unless you’re symptomatic, the
n that’s a different story.”
Heart rate: This quick, noninvasive test checks heart rhythms for potential heart problems. If it’s hard to get a pulse, it may signal blockages in your arteries, which comes with high cholesterol or diabetes.
Between 60 to 100 beats per minute is normal. “If it’s lower, then that’s a sign you’re in great shape,” Dr. Ricanati says. “Get it between 50 to 80 if you can.” Well-trained athletes are between 40 to 60 beats per minute, for instance. If you can’t tell how fit you are from a glance in the mirror, your heart rate (like blood pressure) is an internal clue of how well your exercise regimen is working.
Lab tests: After the age of 20, you should get a blood test to check your cholesterol levels every five years. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) levels should be high, greater than 40 to 60 mg/dL (think H, because they “Help” your body). Your “lousy” cholesterol levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) should be lower than 130 mg/dL. Overall you want your cholesterol lower than 200 mg/dL. Eating omega 3-rich foods like salmon can help raise HDL levels inside and keep skin glowing on the outside.
If your cholesterol is high, your arteries may be aging with fats and plaque, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. In this case or for those with a family history of heart disease and stroke, you may also get a larger lipid (or coronary risk) profile, which measures triglyceride levels.
Cholesterol can also be checked as part of a comprehensive metabolic panel that looks at levels of glucose, protein and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) that signal how well your kidneys and liver are functioning. This clues your doctor in to a variety of other issues, such as liver or kidney problems. Polycystic kidney disease can be investigated with imaging tests and affects 1 in 1,000. This figure may even be higher because not everyone experiences telltale symptoms like high blood pressure and nail abnormalities.
When: Every five years, starting at age 30.
Why: To check for hyperthyroidism (when your body produces too much thyroid hormone) and hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone). Both conditions mess with your metabolism and nearly every bodily process and could sap you of energy.
If you’re having trouble regulating your weight, this can be a physical sign of a thyroid condition. Get a blood test to rule out a thyroid problem.
Test: Female Physical Exam
When: Every year.
Why: To check for cervical cancer, breast cancer and other problems such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Breast exam: Your doctor can detect abnormal lumps that signal benign tumors or breast cancer. She will also check the lymph nodes in the underarm area. After age 40, women begin getting mammograms, an X-ray screening of their breasts to check for cancer.
The pelvic exam and Pap smear: The pelvic exam is a hands-on test that checks for STIs, while a Pap test screens for cervical cancer. If you had the HPV vaccine, you shouldn’t need a yearly screening. Instead, you should be able to get a Pap smear every two to three years, according to Dr. Ricanati, unless your physician recommends otherwise.
When: Age 50 (earlier if there’s a family history).
Why: To screen for polyps (abnormal growths in the colon or rectum) and cancer.
Regular exercise can lower your risk of
colon cancer and breast cancer. An ugly side effect of obesity is heightened risk of these cancers. The good news is that colon cancer screening can often catch the disease early on, before the polyps become cancerous.
What: Bone Mineral Density
When: Age 65.
Why: To measure bone mineral density and identify osteoporosis
One in five women over 50 have osteoporosis in the U.S., which includes thinning of bone tissue and decreasing bone density. In the early stages, it’s hard to detect signs of the disease without having fractures.
Be proactive and protect your bones early on by taking calcium with vitamin D and doing weight-bearing exercises such as strength training and running, which can prevent fractures later in life. Building stronger bones improves your posture, which makes you come across as confident as you interact with others.
One more thing...
Think vaccines are just for children? Not so! If you get the go ahead from your doctor, these vaccines can help prevent some nasty viral and bacterial infections from stopping you in your tracks.
What: Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster shot
When: Every 10 years
What: Shingles vaccine
When: Age 50
What: The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) for pneumonia
When: Age 65 (or those ages 19 to 64 who smoke or have asthma)
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