Many of us think of a visit to the doctor as something to save for when we’re feeling unwell. You’re feeling “off,” so you schedule a visit to find and treat the problem. This is a reactive approach to your health in that you wait for symptoms before seeing a doctor. A much better approach is to be proactive and have regular exams to prevent any developing issues from becoming serious.
“Preventative medicine” is the umbrella term that holds all those routine checkups and yearly tests your doctor orders to get an overview of your health and wellness. When you visit your doctor for a physical, for example, you’re being proactive in your health by getting routine examinations that may spot serious health risks or issues. And while you’re thinking about preventative care, don’t forget flu shots and other routine vaccinations—they’re inexpensive or free, easy to get, and they’re a great way to avoid serious viral infections.
Annual screenings are another way to prevent or catch disease before it becomes a bigger issue. They vary for different age groups and genders. However, some universally necessary check-ins include blood pressure, height, weight, and BMI (body mass index). These simple factors tell your physician a lot about your overall health, including your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. Annual dental exams are also vital for your overall health. Other screenings will vary by age and are equally as important in preventative medicine.
Here’s a list, by age group, of the annual screenings that’ll keep you on the right track.
Cholesterol should be tested once in your 20s and then annually after you turn 35. If you’re at risk for skin cancer, yearly dermatology visits can prevent melanomas from forming. Men in this age bracket should have a testicular exam, while women of this age group should be examined for breast lumps. A pap smear and pelvic exam are also suggested every three years to check for irregularities, STDs, and HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer.
All screenings within the 18-39 age group should continue annually unless another time frame is specified by your physician.
Women within the 40-64 age range should begin scheduling yearly mammograms. If breast cancer runs in your family, you may want to start even earlier.
If you are a man with a high risk of developing prostate cancer, exams should start at age 40. Otherwise, starting at age 50 is fine. No matter what gender you are, a fasting blood sugar should be taken yearly to test for signs of diabetes. All adults should be screened for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy at age 50.
People in this age group may ask for a bone-density screening to assess for osteoporosis. Additionally, a big part of preventative medicine has to do with receiving routine vaccines. If you’re 65 and older, you may need both the shingles and pneumococcal vaccines, but ask your physician first.
Preventative medicine is beneficial for your overall health and your pocketbook as these screenings—which are usually covered at 100% by insurance—will help you discover medical problems early, when they are less dangerous and less costly to treat. By having routine screenings and checkups with your physician, you can mitigate your risks of developing many diseases, some of which are serious if left untreated. Talk to your physician today and schedule a yearly checkup. Ask what screenings they recommend you get in order to maintain your best health.