The list of health professionals you’re supposed to see in your lifetime tends to grow as you age, but how often should you see each one?
Some people consistently see their doctors and dentists once every year, while others only visit a health professional when something goes wrong. Proper diet and exercise play a significant role in our health, but genetics may ‘overrule’ these efforts. If you have a family history of any of the multitudes of cancers, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, allergies, or any of a whole list of health issues, yearly physicals may detect them early, and early detection is vital for your health and safety.
This list is meant as a basic recommendation for those who want to make sure their bodies are working as smoothly as possible. The question of how often one should see a doctor does not have a simple one-size-fits-all answer. However, everybody should agree that prevention is better than cure.
In your 20s and older:
If you’re not sick, once a year for annual check-ups and flu shots, or several times a year if you’re suffering from illnesses, need immunity shots or are pregnant. Annual check-ups are also recommended once a year to update your family doctor with things like your weight, height and any changes in your blood.
Gynaecologist: Once a year. Includes Pap smear, pelvic exam, clinical breast exam and, if you have a new sex partner, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases. If you have more than one sexual partner, you should have Pap smear and STD tests every six months.
Dentist: Every six months for teeth cleaning and oral exam.
Dermatologist: If you’re fair-skinned or have a family history of skin cancer, you’ll want an annual appointment. Otherwise, go if you have any suspicious moles or skin problems.
In your 30s, add:
Cholesterol screening: You need one every five years if your last test was normal. (These tests are often available at health fairs or through your internist.) Some experts say you can wait until your 40s to start unless you’re at increased risk for heart disease because of smoking, family history, obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
In your 40s, add:
Mammogram: The rigorous and evidence-based U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended starting annual screenings at 40; other guidelines suggest beginning at 50. Use your intuition and common sense based on your health and family history, and discuss your decision with your doctor.
Annual rectal exams and PSA blood tests to screen for prostate cancer.
Both Men and Women:
Stress echocardiogram: Get a baseline analysis of how your heart is holding up.
Ophthalmologist: Many doctors advise going annually, although others recommend every two to four years until age 65, then annually. The visit should include an intraocular pressure measurement for glaucoma.
In your 50s and above, add:
Colonoscopy: Every five years.
Bone density scan: Some experts recommend waiting until you are 65 unless there are risk factors.
Though there is a genetic component involved, disease prevention can be significantly affected by the food you eat as well as other lifestyle habits and physical activity.
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