When it comes to your health, being proactive is better than sitting back and waiting for something unfortunate to happen.
So you eat real food (not packaged, sugary products)… exercise appropriately (and enough)… and cut out unhealthy habits — like smoking and gaining weight — that might have a negative impact on your well-being.
You should also take advantage of screenings that can alert you to potential problems that require follow up with your physician. But beyond that, how can you know if common tests are truly necessary, so you can avoid excessive or unwanted procedures, rising insurance co-pays, and last but not least — dangers like excessive radiation?
Do you really need these common tests?
- Pap test
Think twice if you usually schedule an annual exam for this test. “Cervical cancer generally takes 10 to 20 years to develop, so you don’t need a Pap test every year,” says Angela Jones, MD, an ob-gyn in Freehold, New Jersey. The current recommendation from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is for women ages 30 to 65 of average risk to get a Pap every three years.
- X-ray for back pain
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, most back pain improves on its own, and patients don’t get better faster if they have an MRI or X-ray. These scans often cause needless worry or lead to more tests. Even though the amount of radiation is small, the effects are cumulative and multiple scans can increase your risk of developing cancer.
- PSA test
Experts doubt that routine screening for prostate specific antigen (PSA) prolongs life, and common false-positives can bring unnecessary anxiety for older patients. Because prostate cancer develops very slowly, a watch and wait program is often better.
- Cholesterol blood test
Routine testing for people taking statins who do not have other pre-existing conditions isn’t needed. Of course, someone who has had a heart attack or stroke should follow protocol for that condition.
- Cardiac stress test.
If you have no symptoms and are low risk for heart disease, there’s no benefit to having an annual electrocardiogram or stress test to check activity of your heart, according to the American College of Cardiology (ACC).
- Bone density tests
These common tests measure the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones and is not recommended for people under age 65 who are low risk for serious bone loss. (Consider it if you smoke, drink heavily, have low body weight, low vitamin D levels, or rheumatoid arthritis). Furthermore, medications prescribed to treat even mild bone loss can have risks. Better to protect bones by doing weight-bearing and strength exercises and supplementing with calcium and vitamin D.