The 7 Tests That Could Save Your Life

If taking care of your health is one of your aspirations, there’s an easy way to get on the right track: Pick up the phone and schedule the seven important, quickie health exams below. “The earlier we identify any potential health problems, the easier it is to resolve them,” says Pam Peeke, M.D., assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in College Park. Plus, you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief once you get the “all clear.”

1. Cholesterol
Why you need it
: Cholesterol levels can help predict heart disease risk.
When you need it: Healthy adults over age 20 should be tested every five years, according to the American Heart Association.

2. Thyroid
Why you need it
: As many as 30 million Americans may be affected by thyroid disorders, although more than half remain undiagnosed, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology.
When you need it: Healthy adults should get their thyroid tested at age 35 and then every few years after that. Women age 60 and older and men age 70 and older should get checked annually.

3. Blood pressure
Why you need it
: High or low blood pressure can be an early indicator of heart disease and kidney issues.
When you need it: At least every two years

4. Skin check
Why you need it
: To check for moles, bumps and discolored spots that may be a sign of skin cancer. More than 9,000 people are expected to die from melanoma this year, according the American Cancer Society.
When you need it: Once a year

5. Breast exam
Why you need it
: To screen for breast cancer, which affects about one out of every eight American women
When you need it: Women older than 50 should get an annual mammogram, and many experts also recommend that women age 20 and older get a clinical breast exam once a year. (There’s been some debate on the efficacy of breast self exams, but many experts still encourage women to examine their breasts monthly. For a how-to, visit cancer.org.)

6. Pap test
Why you need it
: To catch abnormal cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer
When you need it: Women who are sexually active or are 21 and older need an annual Pap test. New guidelines from the American Cancer Society say that women over age 30 who’ve received three consecutive normal tests can get screened every two or three years.

7. Oral exam
Why you need it
: Oral health is connected to overall health—for instance, studies show that gum disease can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
When you need it: Cleanings are recommended every six months; exams once a year

Note: Check with your doctor about whether these tests are right for you and if you should have them more or less frequently than what’s recommended by most health organizations.