All adults should visit their health care provider from time to time, even if they are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:
- Screen for diseases
- Assess risk of future medical problems
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle
- Update vaccinations
- Maintain a relationship with a doctor in case of an illness
Even if you feel fine, it is still important to see your health care provider regularly to check for potential problems. Most people who have high blood pressure don't even know it. The only way to find out is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Likewise, high blood sugar and high cholesterol levels often do not produce any symptoms until the disease becomes advanced.
There are specific times when you should see your health care provider. Age-specific guidelines are as follows:
- Blood pressure screening:
- Have your blood pressure checked every year.
- If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be watched more closely.
- Cholesterol screening:
- If your cholesterol level is normal, have it rechecked every 3-5 years.
- If you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, you may need to be monitored more closely.
- Colon cancer screening: One of the following screening tests should be done:
- A stool test every year
Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years along with a stool guaiac test
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Computed tomographic colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
Note: Patients with risk factors for colon cancer, including long-standing ulcerative colitis, personal or family history of colorectal cancer, or history of large colorectal adenomas may need a colonoscopy more often.
- Dental exam:
- Go to the dentist every year.
- Eye exam:
- Have an eye exam every 2 years.
- Make sure your health care provider checks for glaucoma.
- Hearing test:
- Have your hearing tested every year.
- If you are over 65, get a pneumococcal vaccine if you have never had before, or if you received one more than 5 years before your turned 65.
- Get a flu shot every year.
- Get a tetanus -diphtheria booster every 10 years.
- A shingles or herpes zoster vaccination may be given once after age 60.
- Physical exam:
- Have a yearly physical exam.
- With each exam, you should have your height and weight checked.
- Routine diagnostic tests are not recommended unless your doctor finds a problem.
- Breast exams:
- Women may do a monthly breast self-exam.
- Women should contact their doctor immediately if they notice a change in their breasts, whether or not they do self exams.
- A complete breast exam should be done by a health care provider every year.
- Women should have a mammogram done every 1-2 years depending on risk factors to check for breast cancer.
- All women should have a bone density test (DEXA scan).
- Ask your doctor about the proper calcium intake and exercise needed to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Pelvic exam and Pap smear:
- After age 65 - 70, most women can stop having Pap smears as long as they have had three negative tests within the past 10 years.
- Women should have a yearly pelvic exam and Pap smear done to check for cervical cancer and other disorders.
- If your Pap smears have been negative for 3 years in a row, your doctor may tell you that you only need a Pap smear to every 2 - 3 years.
- Women who have had a total hysterectomy (uterus or cervix removed) may choose not to have Pap smears.
- If you are over 70 and your Pap smear has been normal for 10 years, or if your test results have been normal for 3 years in a row, you may choose not to have any more Pap smears.
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