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How often do we need to have physical exams?

Updated on August 16, 2013

It's the day after your fortieth birthday bash and you're feeling the aftermath of too much food and drink. You wouldn't have thought twice about it ten or twenty years ago. But now, you're starting to wonder if that headache is hanging on a little too long.

Or, you think that your upset stomach is a bit more troublesome than it used to be. Or, you also start to feel a little winded after climbing the stairs. Then you might ask yourself, "Should I go for a checkup?" "Now that I am past 40, should I have checkups more often?"

The answer is simple: It depends. It depends on your age, sex, family history and general health.

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There are certain tests and "warning flags" that doctors look out for in different age and sex groups. For example, a newly married 25-yr-old woman probably will need to have a Pap smear at her annual checkup, but she's probably too young to be worried about a mammogram.

Or, a healthy person with no family history of high blood pressure probably only needs to check his blood pressure every couple of years, whereas persons with a family history of high blood pressure or who are overweight might want to have their blood pressure checked every month or so.

If you get a complete physical, what should you tell the doctor?

The answer : Everything. You need to tell the doctor about your eating habits, how often you exercise, whether or not you smoke, any family history of diseases like heart disease or diabetes, any changes in your health, any unusual symptoms or complaints, and so on.

All of that information helps the doctor form a complete picture of your health and provide you with the best care. And what if you feel fine? Do you still need regular checkups?

The answer is yes, but probably not every year. There are certain tests that the doctor should run based on your age, health and sex.

The following chart will give you an acceptable estimate of when you should see a doctor for routine tests.

Blood Pressure

Age
How often
20 - 29
annually if normal
30 -39
annually if normal/as needed
40 -49
annually if normal/as needed
50+
annually if normal/as needed

Cholesterol

Age
How often
20 - 29
------
30 - 39
once a year if normal / as needed
40 - 49
every 4 - 5 years / as needed
50+
every 4 - 5 years /as needed

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Clinical Breast Exam

Age
How often
20 - 29
every 1 - 3 years
30 - 39
every 1 - 3 years
40 - 49
annually
50+
annually

Mammogram

Age
How often
20 - 29
-----
30 - 39
baseline
40 - 49
every 1 - 2 years
50+
annually

Pap Smear and Pelvic Exams

Age
How often
20 - 29
annually
30 - 39
annually
40 - 49
annually
50+
annually

Fecal Occult Blood (checks for colon cancer)

Age
How often
20 - 29
-----
30 - 39
-----
40 - 49
-----
50 - 64
annually
65+
annually

Digital Rectal Exam

Age
How often
19 - 39
----
40 - 49
every 1 - 3 years
50 - 64
every 1 - 3 years
65+
annually

Sigmoidoscopy

Age
How often
19 - 39
discuss with doctor
40 - 49
discuss with doctor
50+
every 5 years unless doctor says more often

PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen)

Age
How often
40 - 49
discuss with doctor
50 - 64
annually
65+
annually

Testicular Exam

Age                                   How often

19-39                                every 1-3 years

40-49                                every 1-3 years

50-64                                every 1-3 years

65+                                   annually


Blood Tests

Age
How often
20 - 25+
as needed

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Urine Test

Age
How often
20 - 25+
as needed

Some people need to be tested more often. If you are high-risk for a certain disease because of family history or other complicating factors, ask your doctor how often you should be checked.

There are other routine tests that doctors run that are more dependent on your health status than on your age or sex. For example, smokers should have chest X-rays taken to help detect lung cancer.

And the middle-age people who never exercise should have a stress test done before starting an exercise program just to see if the heart is strong enough for the new exercise.

People who suffer from diabetes will need to have their blood sugar checked regularly, and chronic alcoholics might want to have their liver functions checked every now and then.

Although the chart above gives you a rough estimate of how often you need certain tests, the bottom line is this: Your body does a good job of telling you when something is wrong.

If you are not feeling up to par, don't wait for your checkup in two years. Go on in and have your checkup early.

On the other hand, if you feel fine, you probably are. So, follow the chart for the basic tests, and trust your body to tell you if you need any additional attention.

Comments

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  • beth811 profile image
    Author

    beth811 8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Seas

    You're correct, Truth From Truth! Thanks for reading.

  • Truth From Truth profile image

    Truth From Truth 8 years ago from Michigan

    great advice on personal health and good test information, all things most people don't think they have the time for, but need to remember to make time. thanks

  • beth811 profile image
    Author

    beth811 8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Seas

    Hi, billips. Thanks for dropping by.

    Good that you care for your health! Regular checkups are a must and would depend on age and family history of diseases. The earlier the disease is detected, the better is the cure.

  • beth811 profile image
    Author

    beth811 8 years ago from Pearl of the Orient Seas

    You are right, Ambition! Due to hectic schedules between work, family and fun, we forget to undergo certain physical examinations. Most of us, the only time to have physical exams is when we sense that there's something wrong in our body and some diseases are too late to treat.

    Thanks for reading.

  • billips profile image

    billips 8 years ago from Central Texas

    Good hub - I am definitely in favor of medical exams - they are essential for detecting medical conditions before they become serious - like it or not, I'm there regularly every year - regards, B.

  • Ambition398 profile image

    Ambition398 8 years ago

    Thanks for the reminder! So many adults put their health on the back burner but these are great guidelines to go by.

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