6 essential screenings you can get at home

You may look and feel fine, but you could be walking around with an undiagnosed health condition, such as heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. And that can be a scary situation.

That’s why your annual wellness visits are so important. But if you missed yours or you’re having trouble getting to the doctor, you may be eligible to have a health care provider come to your home.

They can help you spot underlying conditions so you can get the treatment you need before they cause serious problems. These 6 in-home screenings may be easy, and most take less than 5 minutes. These screenings aren’t intended to replace your annual wellness visit, but it’s a good place to start if you haven’t seen your doctor in a while. Here’s a rundown of what to expect:

1. Blood pressure test

What it is

A test to measure the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps

Why it’s important

About a third of all people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it, even though many have health insurance and see a regular provider at least twice a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Blood pressure tests look at 2 factors:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the top number), which is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart beats
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number), which is the pressure inside the arteries when the heart rests between beats

According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If your systolic number is between 120 and 129 and your diastolic number is greater than 80, that is considered elevated. If your reading is 130/80 or higher for either number, you’ve got hypertension.

Getting your blood pressure checked at home can be particularly helpful. “Often, a patient might have borderline high blood pressure in their doctor’s office, but it’s dismissed as to just being nervous about being in a medical setting,” says Michael Hochman, M.D., CEO of Healthcare in Action Medical Group. “This way, we can know for sure.”

2. Urine test

What it is

A test that checks a urine sample for abnormalities using a chemically treated plastic stick

Why it’s important

This test can identify whether you have protein or glucose (sugar) in your urine. High levels of protein can be a sign of kidney disease; too much sugar can signal diabetes.

If your results show any of these, you’ll need to see your primary care provider (PCP) for more testing.

3. Monofilament test

What it is

A test where the practitioner rubs a soft nylon fiber (monofilament) over your feet to check your sensitivity to touch

Why it’s important

Diabetes can cause nerve damage in your feet (also called diabetic neuropathy). If left untreated, this condition can raise the risk that you’ll develop potentially dangerous foot ulcers. Diabetic neuropathy occurs in about half of all patients with diabetes. Of those, about half may not even have symptoms.

Use this checklist to help prepare for an annual wellness visit.

4. Colon cancer screening

What it is

A test that checks your stool for hidden blood. The practitioner will leave you an easy-to-use kit to collect the sample. You place it in a special container and mail it to a lab.

Why it’s important

Small amounts of blood in your bowel movements can be a sign of colon cancer. “These tests do a good job of picking up colon cancer, and they’re a good option if you’ve been too squeamish to have a colonoscopy done or would prefer to avoid an invasive procedure,” says Dr. Hochman. Just keep in mind, if blood is found, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. You’ll have to have a colonoscopy done to get a firm diagnosis.

5. Diabetes screening

What it is

A blood sample collected from your fingertip

Why it’s important

Diabetes can raise the risk for other complications. Detecting it early can help avoid them. For people who are already diagnosed with the condition, this test can help manage it.

6. Circulation screening

What it is

A test to check for a certain type of heart disease. During this test, the practitioner places a sensor on a finger on each hand, as well as on each of your big toes. The sensors measure your blood flow in each limb.

Why it’s important

Decreased blood flow to legs and feet can be a sign of peripheral artery disease, a form of vascular disease. If left untreated, it can lead to walking difficulties, tissue loss, infection and even amputation.

Your screening determines your risk by calculating something known as the digital ankle brachial index. It compares the blood flow in your arms to the blood flow in your legs. If it’s less than 1, you may have peripheral artery disease. You’ll need to see your PCP for more testing.

An annual wellness visit may be one of the most important visits you have all year. Already a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage member? Sign in to your plan website and learn how to get more from your health plan benefits, including an annual wellness visit.

Already a UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage member?

Seeing a provider is important to help live healthier. Schedule an annual wellness visit today.