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Medical Tests You Need For the New Year
By Michael Parkinson, M.D.

You already have the power within you to live a healthier, happier, more energized life. All you need is a roadmap to make it happen. Many people, maybe you included, see medical and diagnostic tests - and standard doctor's checkups, for that matter - as necessary evils at best. Which is probably why you put these important tests off, or skip them altogether.

Maybe it's time for a new perspective. As one of your New Year's resolutions this year, how about seeing those tests as a road map to help you stay focused on your journey to better health? These tests may point to challenges ahead, but that's good. Numbers provide focus. The tests inform the bigger picture that you control, and create mileposts for the journey to a healthier you.

So, with the creation of that road map in mind, here are the tests you should consider to have done early in the new year:

  • BMI (body mass index)
  • Blood pressure: Below 120/80 is ideal.
  • Blood lipids (fats) This should include total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind), HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind), and triglycerides.

Depending on your age, gender, family history, immunization status, and other factors, you may also want to schedule the following (check with your doctor to see which are appropriate):

  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Vision or dental exam
  • Pap smear and pelvic exam
  • Immunizations (hepatitis, tetanus, etc.)

Once you have this important road map data, your journey to better health can begin. Use the following four-step process to achieve your health goal(s) in 2012:

  1. Set your informed goal: Pick a specific, achievable goal with a reasonable time frame.
  2. Make a plan, and get started: As with your goal, your game plan for getting there needs to be as specific as possible.
  3. Enlist friends and family to help: Goals are much easier to accomplish when you get daily support from those who care about you.
  4. Become a mentor: Don't underestimate the positive influence you will have on others when you successfully accomplish your health goal.

Dr. Michael Parkinson is Senior Medical Director for Health and Productivity for UPMC WorkPartners, which is part of the integrated partner companies of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. He can be reached at parkinsonmw@upmc.edu.

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