Being in your 20s may feel like you have enough to worry about without bothering to worry about health checkups. But as 30 approaches, doctors want you to know about important medical tests you absolutely shouldn't be avoiding. Even if you're busy and stressed, checking these off your list can prevent a lot of pain down the road.
"It is important to make regular health checkups a part of life while you are young and feeling good," Kristine Arthur, MD, an internist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, tells Bustle. "It does not mean you need to go often, but at least enough to know who your doctor is and to get to know them when you are feeling well." Seriously — don't just wait until things start to go wrong.
Preventative medicine and screenings can keep you healthy for years down the line. "By staying up to date with you screenings you are always one step ahead of others when it comes to health. Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and even cancers can be avoided by finding out you have a problem earlier," Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, a urologist at Orlando Health, and Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, tells Bustle. Plus, getting these tests can provide you insight into your current health — even if you aren't experiencing any symptoms.
"Doctors look to medical testing to provide a clearer view into a patient’s current condition," Dr. Marra Francis, a practicing OBGYN and Chief Medical Officer at EverlyWell, tells Bustle. "These routine medical tests equip doctors with the information they need to make the right care recommendations to patients." So help you doctor or medical team out by actually showing up, and getting the tests you need, before it's too late. Here are seven medical tests you should get by the time you're 30.
Taking care of your skin is just as important before you turn 30 as after. "If you have a family or personal history of skin cancer, have numerous moles [or] freckles, or have fair skin with light hair and light eyes and regular sun exposure you should have an annual skin check," Dr. Arthur says.
Even if these factors don't apply to you, you should still get your skin checked before your 30s. "Most of us don’t wear enough sun screen, and when we do either its not done right or put on enough ..." Dr. Brahmbhatt says. "There are others that love the sun or the tanning bed. All these factors increase your risk of skin cancers. If you have a weird spot on your skin to get it checked." So put the dermatologist on your to-do list. It's worth it.
If you're sexually active, you should get tested, regardless of how careful you're being. "This is one we often forget but is very important," Dr. Brahmbhatt says. "If you are sexually active, especially with multiple partners, getting screened yearly is a good idea. The testing may include checking for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV." It's relatively easy, and there are many places that offer free testing.
It may be scary to face the possibility of an STI, but it's really important. "STDs are still very prevalent," Dr. Arthur says. "They can cause cancer and infertility if not treated. Be sure to be honest with your doctor about your sexual history and also be sure you are up to date on protective vaccines." Plus, now more than ever, people are breaking down STI stigma. So even if you test positive, you can find all sorts of support.
You may feel like your eyes don't need attention as long as you can see clearly, but doctors want you to know how important it is to get your eyes checked in your 20s. "Regular checkups are important for your overall health, and that includes regular eye exams," Dr. Jennifer Lyerly, OD, Transitions Brand Ambassador, tells Bustle. "It’s easy to overlook a regular eye exam if you aren’t noticing your vision changing, but an eye exam reveals much more about your overall health." And this checkup may reveal more than you'd expect. "By looking into your eye, your doctor can identify signs and symptoms of chronic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure and brain abnormalities," Dr. Lyerly adds.
Plus, with today's digital lifestyles, our eyes are aging quicker than past generations'. So it's important to take care of your eyes to prevent headaches and other kinds of pain during screen time.
4Blood Pressure Test
You may associate paying attention to blood pressure with aging, but doctors want you to make sure you're tracking your blood pressure even in your 20s. "You can get high blood pressure at any age, so its important to check it in your 20s," Dr. Brahmbhatt says. "Changes in diet and exercise are usually the first line treatment for high blood pressure at a young age, so don’t freak out about having to take medications for the rest of your life if it is high," Jamin Brahmbhatt. Keeping track, though, can help prevent heart problems down the line.
Cholesterol is another health problem that may feel irrelevant in your 20s, but really isn't. "In your 20s you should at least once get your cholesterol checked," Dr. Brahmbhatt says. "Based on your initial number it may need to be checked every one to five years. Your primary care doctor will decide how often so don’t worry about figuring it out yourself." Factors that affect your need to keep an eye on your cholesterol include your personal health history, as well as family history.
Keeping tabs on your cholesterol at a young age can prevent a lot of problems down the line. "High cholesterol can increase a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure," Dr. Francis says. "The recommended starting ages for cholesterol screening are between 20 to 45 years old for women. Testing cholesterol is one of the most common ways to assess your overall heart health." So ask your doctor about this screening next time you have an appointment.
6Cervical Cancer Screening
Going to the gynecologist is important for a plethora of reasons. A cervical cancer screening might be one of the most important ones. "Women from age 21 to 29 should have a pap smear every three years," Dr. Brahmbhatt says. "Women who have been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the guidelines." So even if you've had the vaccine, you still need to get preventative screenings just in case.
Pap smears (cervical cancer screening) and HPV testing are actually two different things — even though they're often done in conjunction. According to the American Cancer Society "the test can be done at the same time as the Pap test, with the same swab or a second swab. You won’t notice a difference in your exam if you have both tests. A Pap test plus an HPV test (called co-testing) is the preferred way to find early cervical cancers or pre-cancers in women 30 and older."
It's vital to talk about HPV with your doctor. "There are more than 79 million Americans that are infected with HPV," Dr. Francis says. "While HPV does typically go away on its own, but when it doesn’t it can cause health problems like genital warts and cervical cancer ... [Women] who are turning 30 can prepare to have that conversation with their doctor." Certain factors might mean that your doctor will want the testing done sooner, rather than later.
While there are a lot of recommendations for testing in your 20s, most of these recommendations will change according to your medical history and your family's history of illness. So always talk to your doctor about these possible conditions, and how they relate to your risk factors. "If you haven’t already done it, make an appointment with your primary doctor to review all family history to decide when you should start preventative screening," Dr. Arthur says. Different considerations will require different courses of action.