Go in for your first at age 21, then every five years until age 40, when you should start getting one annually, according to Marianne J. Legato, MD, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Legato recommends getting checks of your blood sugar, cholesterol, thyroid function, liver and kidney function, and vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels. That’s because many serious health threats, such as high cholesterol, are silent killers with few to no symptoms to sound a warning. "I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a trace of protein in the urine of a 25-year-old, which could mean loss of kidney function later," Dr. Legato says.
The Pap can spot the earliest signs of cervical cancer, when the chance of curing this disease is very high. It’s especially vital to be tested when you’re in your 20s because you’re more likely to have multiple sex partners and be exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can trigger dangerous cell changes. Get it at your yearly gyno exam, starting at age 21 (if you haven’t been tested before then). At age 30, if you’ve had three consecutive normal results, you may only need a Pap every three years until age 65.
Tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
There are some 19 million new STD infections each year, almost half of them among 15- to 24-year-olds. "Often there are no symptoms," says Beth Jordan, MD, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. "If left untreated, some infections can lead to infertility and other complications." Get tested annually for HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea when you become sexually active (and when you’re starting a new relationship) until age 24, or until you’re no longer "high risk" (meaning you have multiple sexual partners ora partner who has multiple partners, or you have unprotected sex). Ask your doctor whether you should be tested for the herpes simplex virus.