10 Health Tests You Need Now
BY Sunnivie Brydum
January 09 2013 8:15 AM ET
It’s a new year and a new you. Your best resolution might be to get the annual tests and immunizations every HIV-positive person needs. It’s the strongest commitment you can make to your health. Frank Spinelli, a New York City physician who specializes in treating patients with HIV, helps navigate what tests you need, when you need them, and why it’s worth your trouble.
EVERY 3-6 MONTHS (Unless your doctor advises otherwise, get these screenings at your regular office visits. If you don't see your doctor regularly, then get these tests every six months.)
What it measures: The pressure of the circulating blood on the walls of your blood vessels.
What that means: Because blood pressure is closely related to the strength and rate of your heartbeat as well as the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls, it is a useful diagnostic tool for a variety of conditions.
Why you need it: Elevated blood pressure is associated with a substantially greater risk of heart attack among HIV-positive people, according to a 2012 report by the Veterans Health Administration.
What it measures: Cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and irregularities in arterial walls or cardiac ventricles.
What that means: An assortment of tests, ranging from a simple blood draw to a chest X-ray to various types of ultrasounds, can help your doctor determine how effectively your heart is pumping blood and spot any rhythmic irregularities.
Why you need it: HIV infection can double the risk of heart attack, according to a 2011 study from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. Additional conditions like diabetes, smoking, and even antiretroviral treatment can also increase your risk for heart attack.
What it measures: The amount of glucose in your blood, also known as blood sugar.
What that means: While there are several different types of tests for diabetes, most function by looking at the amount of glucose in the blood that has attached to red blood cells as they move through the bloodstream. The more glucose in the blood, the higher the potential for damage to your large and small blood vessels.
Why you need it: HIV-positive people are at an increased risk for diabetes, especially if they have additional risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, increased waist circumference, physical inactivity, and African-American or Latino heritage. Because some HIV treatments can affect glucose uptake levels, it’s also important to be screened for diabetes before starting HAART or any nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor drugs, according to Diabetes Spectrum.