5 health screenings you need

Joined: April 20th, 2010, 12:23 pm

January 28th, 2012, 7:39 am #1

By From the editors of Runner's World | Vitality – Tue, Jan 24, 2012 12:21 PM EST.. .

Are you forgetting these important health screenings?No matter how fit you are, you can't change health risk factors like your genes, your family history, your race, or your age. Other aspects of your lifestyle count, too, including how you manage stress and your eating habits. The best way to safeguard your long-term health is to catch troublesome issues early, so ask your doctor about adding these screenings to your calendar.

BLOOD PRESSURE
There are no early symptoms of high BP (hypertension), but the longer it goes unnoticed--and untreated--the more damage occurs to your heart and blood vessels, upping your chances of a heart attack or stroke. With every birthday your risk goes up. Your favorite foods also play a role, with salt, saturated fats, and too much alcohol being top aggravators. Certain medicines can also raise BP.

WHEN TO SCREEN: Start at age 18; then every year
YOUR TARGET: Blood pressure under 120/80 mmHg

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CHOLESTEROL
Some cholesterol--a waxy, fatty substance--is necessary to build healthy cell membranes and protect nerve cells in your brain. But whatever the body doesn't use to perform those vital jobs can cause harm. The "bad" form (LDL) clings to the arteries, sabotaging blood flow to your heart and triggering inflammation. The "good" form (HDL) soaks up and removes excess cholesterol. You can raise HDL through exercise, but you should still get screened.

WHEN TO SCREEN: Start at age 20; then as recommended by a doctor
YOUR TARGET: Total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL; LDL below 100 mg/dL; HDL above 60 mg/dL

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THYROID-STIMULATING HORMONE
An underactive or overactive thyroid can make your favorite workouts far more difficult. That's because the thyroid hormone regulates how much energy reaches all cells, including muscle cells: too little thyroid hormone (which is separate from TSH) can leave you feeling weak and bring about hypothyroidism. Too little TSH is a sign of hyperthyroidism and can make you feel jittery.

WHEN TO SCREEN: Start at age 35; then every three to five years
YOUR TARGET: TSH level between.5 and 5.0 mIU/L

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IRON (SERUM FERRITIN)
Iron is the key ingredient to the production of hemoglobin, which ferries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. If hemoglobin is low, your workouts may pay the price. Yet there are no ringing alarm bells that announce early iron deficiency. Symptoms--increased fatigue, lack of energy, muscle soreness, achy joints, and sliding performance--match up to a number of things, including the flu or overtraining. But if iron stores aren't returned to a healthy state, heart problems may arise.

WHEN TO SCREEN: As symptoms occur; vegetarians and women may want to ask about preventive screenings
YOUR TARGET: Above 25 ng/mL

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BLOOD SUGAR
Generated by the carbohydrates you eat, blood sugar (a.k.a. glucose) is a major source of your body's fuel. To use this fuel for energy, your body needs the hormone insulin to take sugar from the blood into the cells. With type 2 diabetes (the most common form), the cells either ignore the insulin or the body doesn't produce enough of it. Glucose then builds up, leading to problems with the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and blood vessels.

In its early stages, diabetes often goes unnoticed: You might feel thirstier and hungrier than usual, become tired and cranky, or have to make more trips to the bathroom. In fact, 7 million Americans have diabetes but don't know it. Early detection helps many athletes with diabetes enjoy rigorous training.

WHEN TO SCREEN: Start at age 45 (earlier if family history); then every year
YOUR TARGET: Below 100 mg/dL
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