Yearly exams are key to better health.
It may be tempting to skip your annual checkups, especially if your health seems normal. But keeping up with your appointments and screenings is an important part of taking care of yourself.
“Preventive care helps detect diseases in the early stages when they are easiest to treat,” explains Eileen Evert, senior director of Health and Wellness at Geisinger. “That’s why you should keep up to date with annual screenings even if you feel perfectly healthy — especially if you have a family history of disease.”
What annual screenings are recommended for healthy adults?
You should have several screenings depending on your age, sex and health history. Here’s a rundown of some to be aware of:
It's recommended that you get a complete physical exam every year regardless of your health.
“This is a chance for your primary care provider to measure your height, weight and body mass index and note any significant changes,” explains Ms. Evert. “And if it’s the right time of year, you can also get your flu shot, which is recommended every year for everyone 6 months and older.”
During your physical exam, your provider will take your blood pressure to make sure it’s within the normal range (120/80). However, if you have a history of high blood pressure or diabetes, screenings should be done more often.
Cholesterol (lipid) screenings
These are recommended every five years unless you have diabetes or cardiovascular issues. In that case, you should be screened every year. “If you have diabetes, yearly HbA1c, LDL cholesterol and kidney tests are also recommended, along with a retinal or dilated eye exam,” says Ms. Evert.
Bone density testing
“If you’re 65 or older, bone density screenings are also important,” says Ms. Evert, “especially after a bone fracture or if you’re at high risk for osteoporosis.”
A bone density test using a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) machine is painless, noninvasive and usually takes less than 15 minutes.
Glaucoma and macular degeneration screenings
Eye exams for glaucoma and macular degeneration are recommended every two to four years until you reach age 64. After 64, have your eyes examined every year or two to check for other age-related conditions.
“After age 50, colon cancer screens are a good idea for everyone,” says Ms. Evert. “Most doctors recommend a yearly fecal occult blood test with a full colonoscopy every 10 years and a flexible sigmoidoscopy on every five years in between.”
After age 40, women should get mammograms every one or two years. “If you have a family history of breast cancer or especially dense breast tissue, other tests — including genetic screenings — might be good options for you even before age 40,” explains Ms. Evert. “Ask your doctor about Geisinger’s high-risk breast clinic if you have special concerns.”
Pap tests and pelvic exams
Depending on your age, pap tests and pelvic exams are recommended every three years or more. Ask your doctor what schedule is right for you, especially if you’re 65 or older or have had a hysterectomy.
The right schedule for prostate exams, which may include a digital rectal exam and/or a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), varies by individual. Ask your doctor what they’d recommend for you.