1. Blood pressure
Blood pressure is one of the most important screenings because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms so it can’t be detected without being measured. High blood pressure greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, be sure to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. High blood pressure can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication. After age 65, women have a higher risk of high blood pressure than men, and African-American adults of all ages have a higher-than-average risk.
2. Fasting lipoprotein profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
You should have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every four to six years, starting at age 20. This is a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. (Learn more about cholesterol and triglyceride levels.) You may need to be tested more frequently if your healthcare provider determines that you’re at an increased risk for heart disease or stroke.
Older women tend to have higher triglyceride levels than men. Like high blood pressure, often cholesterol and triglycerides can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medication.
3. Body weight
Starting around 20 years old, your healthcare provider may ask for your waist circumference or use your body weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI) during your routine visit. These measurements may tell you and your physician whether you’re at a healthy body weight and composition. About two of every three adults are now overweight or obese. Being obese puts you at higher risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and more.
4. Blood glucose
Starting at age 45, you should have your blood glucose level checked at least every three years. High blood glucose levels put you at greater risk of developing insulin resistance, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to many serious medical problems including heart disease and stroke. If you’re overweight AND you have at least one additional cardiovascular risk factor, your doctor may recommend a blood glucose test even if you’re not yet 45, or more frequently than every 3 years.
5. Smoking, physical activity, diet
Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. If you smoke, tell your doctor at your next healthcare visit. If you smoke, your doctor can suggest approaches to help quit. Also discuss your diet and physical activity habits. If there’s room for improvement in your diet and daily physical activity levels, ask your doctor to provide helpful suggestions.
Take the next step:
- Check out blood pressure apps for your smart phone.
- Read about techniques to lower your blood pressure.
- Learn effective tips to help you quit smoking for good.
- Read about surprising places where sugar lurks.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.