For many of us, January comes with a big workload. Those pesky resolutions, catching up at work after the holidays and knowing that income tax season is just around the corner is probably enough. But adding one more to-do to your list will help you in the long run.
Annual exams and certain tests are recommended for healthy adults, with varying recommendations for age groups and family history. Calendar them now, at the beginning of the year, and you’ll avoid long waits due to doctors’ busy schedules.
Dr. Salvatore Tarantino, an internal medicine doctor affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, recommends routine exams within certain timeframes depending on your age.
- For adults up to age 50 with no medical issues, no blood pressure issues or diabetes, and with no family history of serious diseases such as heart disease or cancer, a checkup every three years is reasonable. However, adults up to age 50 who do have a family history of serious disease should have a checkup every year.
- For those 65 and above, with no underlying disease in progress and no lab abnormalities, Dr. Tarantino recommends an annual exam.
“Once a year is still OK if you’re healthy at this age, but patients need to make their doctor aware of changes that have occurred that we might not otherwise be able to detect,” says Dr. Tarantino. He suggests coming with a list of information and questions such as “What vitamins should I be taking?” or information not visible to a doctor, such as “I’ve been having headaches in the evening” to get the most out of your visit.
These appointments should be comprehensive enough to include a physical examination and routine blood tests such as a complete metabolic panel, lipid panel, thyroid tests, vitamin D levels and a clinical breast exam for women.
As you hit certain age milestones, you will need to schedule initial and annual tests for diseases such as cancer.
- For both men and women ages 50 and above, it’s colonoscopy time. You hit the big 5-0 and this is your bonus check (literally) to screen for colorectal cancer. Men should schedule an annual prostate exam as well.
- For women, talk to your doctor about when and how often you should receive a mammogram, depending on your risk factors.
Dr. Tarantino suggests talking to your doctor about other specific tests you think you may need, based on family history of certain diseases or health conditions.
“I try to engage the patient to be involved in their own care, not just when they get sick,” says Tarantino. “Our emphasis now is prevention.”