• By Cynthia (Cindy) Weiss

Top tests and health checks for the New Year

January 3, 2018

a cardiologist checking a patient's heart beat with a stethoscopeA new year often brings resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle – from being more active to losing weight, quitting smoking and eating better.

Regardless of your desires, knowing your numbers is the best way to kick off your new year plans.

“If you are aiming for a more healthful 2018, the most important things to know are your numbers – including your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index and cholesterol,” says Dr. Vandana Bhide, a Mayo Clinic internist.

Dr. Bhide also recommends an annual physical with an immunization review as well as vision and dental checkup.

“Starting the year with a good baseline of your health can help you achieve your goals and stay aware of any potential issues,” says Dr. Bhide.

Other tests that are valuable depend on age and gender.

For those over 50, Dr. Bhide recommends a heart health screening with stress test and colorectal cancer screening.

“For men, a testicular cancer screening and a prostate exam is also important; and, for women, scheduling an annual pelvic exam, Pap smear and mammogram,” she says.

Tracking your pressure

Recent changes by the American Heart Association to blood pressure guidelines mean more people are at risk for hypertension. Checking your pressure regularly is key to staying healthy, says Dr. Amy Pollak, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist. “If you don’t check your blood pressure, then you don’t know if it’s high or at goal. Checking your blood pressure about two to three times per week can help you notice any changes.”

Watch: Drs. Bhide and Pollack discuss tips for a healthy heart in the new year.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Drs. Bhide and Pollak are in the downloads.

Make small changes to your diet

Cutting down on sugar and fat can help your waistline, but reducing salt can also improve your heart health and keep your blood pressure in check, adds Dr. Pollak.

“Try to focus on lower salt options and balance this with adding more unprocessed foods, like fruit and vegetables and lean meats," she says.

Five days of activity

Physical activity also is important – both for weight loss as well as general health. Both doctors advocate for at least five days a week of physical activity.

“You don’t have to spend an hour on the treadmill every day. Find something, anything, you love to do that gets you moving,” says Dr. Pollak.

But, she adds, it’s important to keep a positive attitude, since there may be times when you cannot achieve your goal.

“Give yourself some slack. And then just start fresh the next week.”

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