Doctors recommend that you get your health checked on an annual basis. Think of it a little like service for your car. You want to catch potential problems and take preventative action, rather than fixing the costly issues and making repairs. Not only do you help to feel healthier, but you’re also more likely to catch major health problems early.
Those who get their annual checkups are more likely to see earlier signs of cancer, diabetes, blood pressure issues, and other conditions. You can get treatments to reverse and cure problems, instead of needing medication to manage the health issues in the future.
The things tested will depend on your age. From the age of 18, though, you want to make sure your health check is an annual thing. Here’s all you need to know.
Women Between 18 and 39
Up to the age of 40, you may be tempted to avoid the doctor’s office. After all, you feel healthy, so why bother the doctor when you don’t feel sick? Well, remember that the health check is to prevent problems, catching some early to get treatments to cure instead of manage in the future.
Between the ages of 18 and 39, your doctor will run tests for various medical issues, including diabetes, cholesterol, and for signs of cervical cancer. You will also likely be offered vaccinations if you’re not up to date or you’re planning a trip somewhere. Your doctor will also want to chat about your lifestyle and your current methods to prevent illnesses to keep you out of the office throughout the year.
Blood Pressure, Diabetes, and Cholesterol Screenings
The most routine and easiest parts of your checkups are the screenings for your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes. Your doctor will let you know if any of them look high (or low) and offer tips to help make improvements to see the numbers healthier at your next checkup.
Your blood pressure should be checked every 3-5 years, although your doctor may suggest more regular checks if concerned. Those with some medical conditions or on specific medication will need to have their blood pressure checked yearly, regardless of the numbers.
Cholesterol screenings are preferable from the age of 20, but only need to be done every five years or so. However, if you have some medical conditions or your figures are high, your doctor may want to check the levels more frequently. The cholesterol is usually a total cholesterol level, but there are also some that will check both good and bad cholesterol to help see which part the problem is. This can affect your dietary needs.
Your doctor will want to keep an eye on your diabetes levels. If you are overweight, your doctor may want to check your levels on a yearly basis. If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your doctor may want you to come back sooner to make sure the condition doesn’t get any worse. Otherwise, you’ll usually have a diabetes check done 2-3 years ever.
Vaccinations, Including the Flu Shot
Doctors will recommend that you get the flu shot on a yearly basis. Your workplace may even mandate it. However, there are other vaccinations to consider.
Your doctor will look at your records to make sure you are up to date on your routine vaccinations. Once a decade, you’ll be recommended the tetanus-diphtheria booster, and your doctor may recommend the MMR vaccine and the chickenpox vaccine depending on your medical records. These illnesses are back on the rise, so you will want to seriously consider them if you haven’t had them as a child.
If you’re at risk of some medical conditions, your doctor may recommend other immunizations. This is especially the case if you’re at risk of developing pneumonia and other similar conditions.
Those between 18 and 26 will usually be recommended the HPV vaccine, which is to help protect against the main reason for cervical cancer.
The Physical Exam
There is a physical exam during your health check-up. Your doctor will want to check your weight and height to get your BMI. This is a good way of seeing if you’re underweight, a healthy weight, or overweight. Depending on the results, your doctor may discuss a lifestyle change or a diet plan.
This is also a good chance for your doctor to discuss your mental health. They want to make sure you’re not suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental health conditions. If you’re underweight, you may discuss eating disorders. Don’t be offended; your doctor is just doing their job to rule out any problems.
Answer questions honestly, especially when it comes to tobacco and alcohol use. The amount you drink, and smoke can have a direct effect on some of your other results during the physical exam. It will help your doctor make suggestions to help live a healthier life and prevent various illnesses.
Breast and Pelvic Exams
Your doctor will want to do a check for any signs of cancer, especially cervical and breast cancer. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll go for a mammogram.
If you don’t have any family history or history of breast cancer, you won’t have a mammogram until you’re over 40. The best way to keep an eye on changes in your breast is to check on them once a month. Feel all the way around the breast tissue for lumps and look out for any discoloration or chapping of the nipple area. Your doctor can also carry out a check for you.
Those with a family history will likely be recommended to get mammograms from the age their family member was diagnosed. This is more common if you have a sibling or parent with cancer, as it can be hereditary.
Your pap smear is extremely important and should be carried out from the age of 21. You’ll get it done every three years at first. If everything looks normal by the age of 30, you’ll get it done every five years. However, if there are any concerns, your doctor may still recommend a three year wait period.
If you have a total hysterectomy and you’ve never been diagnosed with cervical cancer, your doctor can even recommend that you don’t have a pap smear at all!
You’ll also want other pelvic exams. Your doctor will check for gonorrhea and Chlamydia if you’re under the age of 25 and sexually active. Those over 25 will only be recommended the tests if there is a concern about the infection. You’ll also have a discussion with your doctor about preventing sexually transmitted infections, as well as preventing pregnancy.
Checking the Skin Health
Skin cancer remains one of the most common types around the Western world. You’ll want to check on your skin regularly for any signs of infections, especially if your skin is the type that has a high risk of cancer or problems.
If you have had skin cancer before or a family member has, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about preventing this. Your doctor may also recommend regular checks with a dermatologist.
However, most of the skin tests are through self-examinations.
Dental and Eye Tests
Outside of your doctor, you’ll also want to visit the optician and dentist regularly. While six months is best for the dentist, you can get away with a yearly checkup for cleaning and a full exam. Your dentist can then discuss if you need more regular visits to protect your teeth, gums, and the bones.
As for the eye exam, you should get your eyes checked every two years. This is more than just checking your vision. Your optician will also want to check on the health of your eyes. Your optician will then decide if you need more frequent tests based on any problems noticed.
Women over the Age of 40
After 40, your health care changes. Your body starts to decline, and you’re at a higher risk of certain conditions, such as cancer and osteoporosis. This is also the time that signs of menopause can start, so your doctor will want to look out for them, along with conditions linked to them.
Here’s a look at the changes required when you reach 40.
Your Breast and Cervical Checks
From the age of 40, you’ll likely be offered a mammogram, if you haven’t already had one. This is a screener for some of the more common signs of breast cancer. You’ll get one every 1-2 years, depending on risk factors.
A breast exam with the doctor will also likely take place. Mammograms don’t catch all signs of breast cancer, so the doctor will want to make sure your breasts look and feel healthy, including checking for lumps and blemishes. This is yearly, along with your self exams.
Like from the age of 30, you’ll only likely have a pap smear once every five years. After the age of 65, you won’t likely need a pap smear anymore. However, your doctor will determine the risk factors based on health, family history, and previous cervical tests.
Other Tests for Cancer
Other cancer tests are also required. For women over 40, the colorectal cancer screening is necessary. Most of the tests are from the age of 50 unless there are certain risk factors or a history of colon or rectal cancers.
A colonoscopy is the most common and is done every decade in healthy adults. You will also need to go through a fecal test, which is where your stool is tested for blood on a yearly basis. This is the most common sign of colorectal cancer in women.
Every five years, your doctor will likely order a flexible sigmoidoscopy and an air-contrast barium enema. The latter is for those who can’t go through the routine colonoscopy, so you won’t need it if you can. The first type of test involves a camera that will test the large intestine.
Bone Density Tests
Your doctor may order bone density tests. This is usually at the age of 65, but your doctor may be concerned at an earlier stage. The bone mineral density test is used to look out for signs of osteoporosis, which can lead to various health problems, including a higher risk of fractures and joint pain.
If you have a family history of the condition, are on medications that lead to bone loss, or you have issues in absorbing calcium, your doctor will likely order the tests at a sooner date. They are very rarely ordered under the age of 40.
The timing of the tests will depend on your doctor’s opinion, based on the results of the last test and any health problems during your life.
The Extra Vaccination
From the age of 60, your doctor will likely recommend that you get the shingle vaccine. This is known as Zostavax, protecting against the herpes zoster virus, which is the reason for shingles.
Shingles are unlikely to affect you before the age of 60, although it can. It’s gained from a similar virus to chickenpox, and you can get it even if you’ve had chickenpox or the vaccine. The good news is you will only need one dose of this.
More Regular Eye Tests
Over the age of 40, you’ll likely need to see the optician more frequently. Most will recommend yearly checks because this is the point in life that the eyes can see a more rapid decline. Your optician will want to check the pressure in your eyes and check for any signs of vision loss due to the likes of cataracts, macular degeneration disease, and glaucoma. These tests are especially important if you have a direct family member with one of the conditions, as they can be hereditary.
Your optician will also look out for signs of problems with your reading vision. This is the one that declines the most as you get older.
During the tests, you will likely have drops placed in your eyes to dilate the pupils. Most opticians will recommend that you have someone come with you, especially if you drive since the drops can make the vision temporarily impaired.
Get Your Annual Health Check
Women need an annual health check-up. This is the most important thing to do, and it’s worth booking with your doctor, optician, and dentist within the same week. Get all the routine appointments out of the way and then you can enjoy the other 51 weeks of the year. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about, as routine tests will help catch problems early so you can quickly repair and take preventative steps to stop them getting worse.