Your Healthy Checkup Checklist

These essential tests will ensure your health and beauty shines on into the new year.

| January 10th, 2012
Your Healthy Checkup Checklist

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.

QUIZ: Do You Have a Healthy Lifestyle?

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.

QUIZ: Are You Getting Enough Exercise?

“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).

MORE: Healthy Eating for Lower Blood Pressure

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, then 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.

MORE: Beauty Issues that Signal Heart Problems

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.

It can also give your doctor a glimpse into potential health and beauty threats that are looming. “If it’s too low, it can be an eating disorder red flag,” says Dr. Ricanati.

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.

MORE: Where to Get Your Omega-3s

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