Vitamin D Blood Test
A whopping 66 percent of men have suboptimal levels of vitamin D, according to a study of 41,000 people in the American Journal of Cardiology. And that's a problem, since D-deficient people are 80 percent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to non-deficient folks, according to the journal Circulation.
But here's the problem: Too much vitamin D also has risks. People with excessive levels of vitamin D in their blood were 2.5 times more likely to develop heart rhythm problems than people with normal levels, according to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. You don't know where you stand unless you have a blood test.
Who needs it? Everyone, yearly.
Stress Test with an EKG
This one's controversial--but so was Hendrix. Dr. Cooper orders a stress test with an electrocardiogram for every one of his patients at age 40. You'll run on a treadmill with electrodes stuck to your chest measuring your heart's activity. Why have it? "Very often the first symptom of heart disease is a heart attack," Dr. Cooper says. "The stress test is a good screening study because there's no real harm associated with it and it's a reliable way to look for underlying problems."
Who needs it? Have one at age 40. Depending on your results and risk factors, you might need one every few years afterward. By age 50, Dr. Cooper orders one for his patients annually.
Do you hate running--but know you need to work your heart? We have your boredom-proof solution: These 3 New Cardio Workouts.
Omega-3 Blood Test
Omega-6 fatty acids compete with beneficial omega-3s for space in our cells. While our ancestors ate about a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, the typical American diet is more like 20:1. New studies roll out almost every week touting another omega-3 benefit. Know your level, and you'll be able to fine-tune how many fish oil supplements you really need to pop each day.
Who needs it? Everyone, annually.
Advanced Cholesterol Panel
Fifty percent of people who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels, Dr. Berkowitz says. "The traditional cholesterol test that looks at LDL and HDL cholesterol doesn't tell us all of the information we need," he explains. "You've got to dig deeper to see the whole picture." Small LDL particles are more risky to your heart than large LDL particles, for example. So that's what Dr. Berkowitz looks for. "If you have a normal amount of LDL cholesterol but they're all small particles, you're still at risk for heart problems."
If you've been eating egg whites to lower your cholesterol, stop. Research shows that the cholesterol you eat doesn't affect the stuff in your blood. So go ahead, try one of these Healthy Egg Recipes.
Who needs it? Everyone yearly beginning at age 30, or earlier if you have a family history of heart disease.
Multidetector Computer Tomography (MDCT)
This imaging test can see cancer years before you have symptoms. It's especially good at detecting deadly threats like pancreatic, lung, and liver cancers. "With this test, we catch those early, and we can treat them very easily," Dr. Cooper says.
The MDCT also can see how much plaque buildup you have in your arteries. "I might have a patient who has iffy cholesterol, but has a lot of buildup. When I see that, I know I need to treat him much more aggressively," Dr. Cooper says. CT scans do carry a risk of radiation, but most doctors are careful to administer low-dose CTs because of those risks. The test will run you around $500.
Who needs it? Everyone at age 40, repeating every 3 to 5 years to limit radiation, says Dr. Cooper. Too pricey? Dr. Berkowitz says to consider the test if you're at high risk for heart disease.
Highly Sensitive C-Reactive Protein Blood Test
High c-reactive protein (CRP) is like a threat level orange in your body: You won't know exactly where the hazard is coming from, but it's there. "CRP is a nonspecific marker of inflammation in your body," Dr. Cooper explains. Ask for the highly sensitive CRP (HSCRP) test. A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that this blood test is twice as effective as a standard cholesterol test in predicting heart attacks and strokes.
Who needs it? Anyone with two or more risk factors for heart disease--family history, obesity, smoking, or prehypertension--says John Elefteriades, M.D., chief of cardiac surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Skin Cancer Screening
One in 5 people will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime. So enlist help: When researchers analyzed 10 years of patient records at a dermatology clinic, they found that doctors detected 82 percent of melanomas among regular patients. (Patients detected the other 18 percent.)
You can probably have this at your regular checkup. "Ask your doctor if he's comfortable with the skin exam and feels comfortable detecting skin cancers," says Christopher Miller, M.D., director of dermatologic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. If he isn't--or if you have your doubts--then see a dermatologist. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery keeps a database of free skin cancer screenings on their website.
Who needs it? Everyone, yearly. Keep an eye on your own skin, too. What are you looking for? Click here to see What Skin Cancer Looks Like.
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