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Common Health Tests (cont.)

Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Measurements

Blood pressure checks: High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and also for a number of other diseases, such as stroke, kidney failure, and eye problems. High blood pressure may have no signs or symptoms at all, until one of these complications strikes. Measurement of blood pressure is relatively straightforward and reliable way to monitor risk and should be recorded every two years or so.

  • The recommendation is that everyone over 3 years of age should have a blood pressure recorded every two years or so.
  • Normal blood pressure should be no higher than 140/90, although it is clear that the lower the blood pressure (up to a point), the lower the risk.
  • If a high normal blood pressure reading is detected, then blood pressure should be checked more frequently. Most doctors would recommend every year. If the blood pressure is above normal on three readings, spaced over a period of time, then therapy should begin. This should be at the discretion of the doctor, because there are cases where it is appropriate to start treatment immediately if someone has very high blood pressure readings.

Cholesterol checks: High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. This seems to be particularly predictive for middle-aged men. The evidence that lowering cholesterol, especially if only slightly elevated, in women, young people, and the elderly, reduces the risk of heart disease is not as strong.

  • What is meant by high cholesterol? People with cholesterol levels over 200 mg/dL are considered to have elevated cholesterol levels. An optimal level is felt to be 180 mg/dL.
  • If the cholesterol level is between 200 and 240, then this is considered borderline high. Levels above 240 are high. Diet and exercise can often lower borderline high cholesterol levels, while medications are frequently recommended for high levels.
  • In general, you should have your cholesterol checked every five years or more frequently if you have a previous high level.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/24/2016
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