Testing, Testing: Dr. Mark Gregory Unveils Necessary Health Tests to Take
A St. Louis physician helps demystify four important health screenings to discuss with your doc.
Much like the fear of taking a school test, facing a health exam can be distressing. But just like those finals in college, acing a health test is all about advanced preparation. We consulted Dr. Mark Gregory, a board-certified doctor of internal medicine and primary care in the Washington University Physicians network, to give us tips on how to make the grade when it comes to these four important health screenings.
1. THE TEST: Stress
Who its for: “Patients who are 40 or over or who are starting on a new exercise program should ask their doctor about this exam,” says Dr. Gregory. “Or those who have had a suspicious EKG in the past.”
What it measures: This exam measures how your heart handles exertion. As you walk on a treadmill, the speed and incline are slowly increased while the doctor watches the electrical activity (EKG) of your heart.
Why its important: A stress test can diagnose coronary artery disease, determine a safe level of exercise or predict risk of a heart attack or other heart related conditions.
Doctors Tip: Eat a light breakfast and pack comfy clothes and running shoes to wear during test.
2. THE TEST: Eye Exam
Who its for: Dr. Gregory notes that patients with high blood pressure should be sure to get an eye exam annually; younger patients can get their eyes checked every couple of years.
What it measures: Unlike a simple vision screening, this exam measures more than just your potential need for eyeglasses or contacts; the doctor also checks for common eye diseases and can learn a lot about your overall health.
Why its important: Eye exams help diagnose many eye diseases that can cause blindness or other diseases that can wreak havoc if not detected early, especially high blood pressure and diabetes, says Dr. Gregory.
Doctors tip: Avoid alcohol before your exam; it can dilate blood vessels of the eye.
3. THE TEST: Skin Cancer Screening
Who its for: Visual skin cancer screenings are important for everyone annually, Dr. Greogry says, but family history plays an important role in whether youll need them more often.
What it measures: This screening is a visual assessment of the skin for suspicious lesions. No blood or biopsy are taken at a screening; only when the doctor feels a lesion may be dangerous will they call for these samples to be taken.
Why its important: Early detection is important to help minimize progression to more aggressive forms. And, as our largest body organ and the protective barrier for our entire body, skins health is vitally important to our overall well-being.
4. THE TEST: Mammogram
Who its for: Women 40 and over or younger women and men who have an aggressive family history of breast cancer.
What it measures: This test is used to aid in the early detection and diagnosis of breast diseases in women and men.
Why its important: Like most cancers, early detection is key. Dr. Gregory notes that its also important to ask for a full-scale breast examination, which includes a visual and manual inspection.
Doctors tip: Reduce or eliminate caffeine for the two weeks before your mammogramit can create benign lumps. Also, skip lotion and deodorant as they can obscure the mammograms appearance.
Make Sure to Get These Tests!
Dr. Mark Gregory
Photo credit: Portrait photo courtesy of Washington University Physicians.