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What Blood Tests Should I Get?

doctor-patient-blood-pressureby James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

There are certain medical tests everyone needs. Here are four all teens and adults, males and females, should get as soon as possible. If you haven’t had them, don’t delay. They're easy and very cost-effective. One trip to most any health-care provider, and you're done. Set up an appointment or just ask during your next visit. The only requirement will be no eating or drinking, other than water, after bedtime on the night prior to the blood test.

  1. Fasting blood glucose (sugar). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.3 percent of Americans have diabetes. Another 35 percent of adults have prediabetes, which puts you at very high risk of developing the full-blown disease. The vast majority of people with prediabetes, though, don't know they have it. Prediabetes is when you have an overnight fasting glucose of between 100 and 126. Diet, exercise and sometimes medications can cut your risk of getting full-blown diabetes by over half.
  2. Fasting blood cholesterol. Actually this is one test in a series called a lipid panel, which measures several fats in the blood, including triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol (the good kind), LDL-cholesterol (the bad kind) and total cholesterol. A high LDL or triglyceride level increases your heart-disease risk. Diet, exercise and medications can lower it, as well as favorably raise your HDL.
  3. Blood Pressure. This requires a simple cuff that goes around your arm and a stethescope to listen for the blood flow. Most people who have high blood pressure have no symptoms, but it's a major risk factor for heart and kidney disease as well as stroke. They don’t call it the “silent killer” without reason. And, yes, there is prehypertension. If your blood pressure is 120-139 on the high figure (systolic) or 80-89 on the low reading (diastolic), you're at double the risk to develop full hypertension. You need closer monitoring, along with lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, low salt).
  4. newsletter-graphicHIV. Another simple blood test. Twenty-five percent of people who have HIV don’t know it. Many of them have what are considered low-risk behaviors and feel healthy. Getting treated early helps. Don’t take a chance. If not for you, get the test for the sake of others you could infect.

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Other screening tests are just as important, but they may be age- or sex-dependent. The four above are a must for everyone. Get them soon.

Veteran family doctor
JAMES HUBBARD, M.D., M.P.H., is the publisher of and his new website,, where he teaches how to treat medical problems during disasters.

Last updated and/or approved: April 2012. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.
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