Don’t skip these health screenings

Good health is worth protecting—for a longer and better quality of life. A good place to start: Ask your doctor if you’re due for any screenings.

Screening tests or exams can help your doctor detect certain health problems early—even before they cause pain or other symptoms. That’s often when they’re easiest to treat.

In some cases, screening may also help prevent some health problems or keep them from getting much worse.

Here are five important screenings to ask about, according to the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other experts. If you have certain risk factors, you may need to have some of these screenings earlier or more often than is shown here. Your doctor can tell you more about what’s recommended for you.

Colorectal cancer screening. People at average risk should start colorectal cancer screening at age 45. Different screening methods, including imaging exams and at-home test kits, are available.

Lung cancer screening. If you’re 55 or older and have ever been a heavy smoker, you might be a candidate for lung cancer screenings. Screening involves getting a yearly low-dose CT scan, a kind of chest x-ray.

Cholesterol checks. You can’t usually feel unhealthy cholesterol levels. But if yours aren’t where they should be, the result can be clogged arteries and a raised risk for heart disease and stroke. To learn your levels, have your cholesterol tested at least every four to six years, starting at age 20.

Blood sugar screening. If you’re 45 or older—or if you’re overweight and have at least one other heart disease risk factor—your doctor may want to test you for prediabetes and diabetes at least every three years.

Body weight and blood pressure checks. Excess weight and high blood pressure are factors in a number of health problems, including heart disease. Your doctor can check your body mass index (an estimate of your body fat) and blood pressure level at every checkup to help you stay on track.

What about prostate cancer screening?

This one’s a bit complicated. Screening can detect prostate cancer in men. But there are pros and cons, such as potential treatment side effects. It’s a personal decision. So starting at 45 if you’re African American or age 50 otherwise, you should discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor. Then decide what’s right for you.

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