Well Visit Preventive Screening

It’s important not to put off getting preventive screenings. Skipping them means you may miss a chance to catch and treat problems early.

Stay up to date with your screenings, even when you feel fine. Here are some of the well visit exams available, including a guide on when and how often to get them.
What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?
The most common are age, race, and having chronic kidney disease (CKD). You can’t control these factors. But you can act to change other risk factors, including:
  • Lack of exercise
  • Eating an unhealthy diet that is high in sodium
  • Being overweight
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using tobacco
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Stress

Blood pressure is an important vital sign – the pressure of circulating blood on the artery walls.

What numbers should I aim for?
The ideal resting blood pressure for adults is 120/8.

How often should I check my blood pressure?
If you ordinarily don't have any other medical issues, then your blood pressure ideally should be checked at least once a year or every time you see your primary care doctor.

If you have a history of high blood pressure or medical issues, check twice daily. Take your first measurement in the morning before eating or taking any medications. Take your second measurement in the evening. Each time you check, it is recommended to take two or three readings to make sure the results are accurate. Your doctor might recommend taking your blood pressure at the same time each day.

How do I control my blood pressure?
Eat a heart-healthy diet with less salt, get regular exercise, and stay at a healthy weight. Also find ways to manage your stress and quit alcohol and/or tobacco.

What do I ask my doctor at my next well visit?
  • What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
  • How can high blood pressure affect my health?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes that will help me control my blood pressure?
  • Should I use a home blood pressure monitor?
  • What are the side effects?

Cholesterol is essential to many functions and processes in our bodies.

There are two different kinds of cholesterol:

LDL cholesterol = “bad” cholesterol. Think of it as less desirable or even lousy cholesterol, because it contributes to fatty buildups in arteries. Plaque buildups narrow arteries and raise the risk for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.

HDL cholesterol = “good” cholesterol. Think of it as the “healthy” cholesterol, so higher levels are better. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. There it’s broken down and passed from the body.

What numbers should I aim for?
Total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are ideal for adult patients. Levels between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered somewhat high. A reading of 240 mg/dL or above is high.

Total blood cholesterol: This includes your HDL, LDL, and 20 percent of your total triglycerides.

Triglycerides: This number should be below 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are a common type of fat. If your triglycerides are high and your LDL is also high or your HDL is low, you’re at risk of developing atherosclerosis.

LDL: The lower this number, the better. It should be no more than 130 mg/dL if you don’t have heart disease, blood vessel disease, or diabetes. It should be no more than 100 mg/dL if you have any of those conditions or high total cholesterol.

HDL: The higher this number, the better. It should be at least higher than 55 mg/dL for females and 45 mg/dL for males.

What are the risk factors for high cholesterol?
Some of these you can control and others you cannot. These include heredity, age and gender, diet, weight, exercise level, alcohol use, stress.

How do I control my cholesterol?
To lower total cholesterol levels, you may want to consider lifestyle changes including a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and losing extra weight. If lifestyle changes are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medications to help.

How often should I check my cholesterol?
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol and other risk factors checked every four to six years.

Talk with your health care provider about your risk. People who have cardiovascular disease or are at higher risk of it may need to have their cholesterol and other risk factors assessed more often.

What do I ask my doctor at my next well visit?
  • What medications are available for high cholesterol? Do they have side effects?
  • When should I take medication for cholesterol?

Blood sugar is the glucose our bodies make while processing sugars. When there is too much glucose, it can lead to diabetes.

Changes in blood sugar levels can be caused by eating too much or not enough food, not being active or more exercise/physical activity than usual, alcohol, stress, and side effects from other medications.
What numbers should I aim for?
The recommended blood sugar levels for people without diabetes or a diabetes diagnosis are 0 mg/dL to 140 mg/dL or 3.8 mmol to 7.7 mmol (2). The recommended HbA1c level, the average levels over weeks/ month, is below 42 mmol/mol (6.0%) (2). The recommended times to check are when you try something new, such as food, exercise, or a medication. Always check before and after you exercise. Blood sugar usually drops after you exercise. So, if you start from a low level, it can be dangerous. Before you go to bed. When drinking alcohol (2).
  1. www.diabetesdaily.com/learn-about-diabetes/understanding-blood-sugars/is-my-blood-sugar-normal/
  2. www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/what-is-a-normal-blood-sugar-level/
How to I keep diabetes in check?
If you have diabetes, you must keep your blood sugar stable to lower your risk of problems. To keep blood sugar in check, you may need to use medications. You should also exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, work to lower stress, and get enough sleep.
What do I ask my doctor at my next well visit?
  • My mother or father had diabetes. Does this mean I will get diabetes, too?
  • I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant. Does that mean that I could get diabetes in the future?
  • Does being overweight put me at risk for diabetes? How much weight do I need to lose to make a difference?
  • How would I know if I had diabetes?
  • Should I be tested to see if I have diabetes? Or: At what age should I be tested to see if I have diabetes?
  • Do I have health risks that increase my chance of getting diabetes?
  • What can I do to prevent or delay getting diabetes?
  • Does eating too much sugar cause diabetes?

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is based on weight adjusted for height, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters (kg/m2). The number is on a scale of 70 points.

Numbers to aim for:
A BMI below 18.5 is underweight; between 18.5 and 24.9 is normal; between 25 and 29.9 is overweight; above 30 is obese.

Changes in blood sugar levels can be caused by eating too much or not enough food, not being active or more exercise/physical activity than usual, alcohol, stress, and side effects from other medications.
What problems can high BMI (overweight/obesity) cause?
Having a BMI that is 25 and above (overweight to obesity) may lead to illness and chronic conditions including:
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart disease and strokes.
  • Some types of cancer.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Osteoarthritis (joint pain).
  • Liver and kidney disease.
  • Problems during pregnancy.
To lower your BMI and your risk for these conditions, consider lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
What do I ask my doctor at my next well visit?
  • How much weight should I lose?
  • How long should I expect it to be before I lose that amount of weight?
  • Will losing weight affect my health?
  • Could a health problem cause weight gain?
  • Are there any side effects from medicine that I currently take that may be causing weight gain?
  • Should I seek help from anyone else (fitness center, personal trainer, dietician etc.)?
  • Are there any medications or supplements that can help me lose weight?
  • Should I consider surgery?

We’re here for you every step of the way. For a full list preventive screenings, immunizations, and exams covered by UPMC Health Plan, call the number on your member ID card or visit our Screening With Meaning page here. Additional coverage includes multiple immunizations, screenings throughout pregnancy, services for children, medications for help with quitting smoking, and more.
Call your PCP today to schedule a preventive screening.