I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. It’s not that I’m a germaphobe or that I run to the doctor at the slightest sign of a fever, but I have a deep fear that one day I’ll walk into a doctor’s office and hear, “I have bad news.”
I’ve lost both parents to cancer and, besides my grandma, every relative on my father’s side has had cancer. I’m also a health journalist, and anyone who reads enough about disease and abnormality will naturally start to wonder when their own luck will run out.
More and more we hear stories about healthy young men who suddenly pass away without the slightest inkling they were ever sick. Just last year I was out for a run, when I passed an ambulance. I was shocked to see that the person they were tending to was a run buddy—someone I’d passed on previous jogs, never talked to, but smiled to in acknowledgement, like, “Hey, I recognize you, and it’s great that we’re both out here doing something positive for our health.” The man was in his mid-40s and appeared to be in great health. On my next jog, I learned my run buddy had passed away from a heart attack.
“Most people have no idea that health risks are looming in the background,” says David Quig, Ph.D., vice president, scientific support, for Doctor’s Data in Chicago. Luckily, there are a number of tests that can help predict your risk for adverse health effects before any symptoms appear. Here’s a look at the most important health tests and why one could save your life.