There are about a million things you’d rather do than plan a trip to the doctor’s office, even if you feel downright miserable. However, planning one trip for a routine physical could help clear your calendar of doctor’s appointments the rest of the year.
What to expect
At the physical, you should have a conversation with your doctor about what you’re eating, how much exercise you need, and alcohol and tobacco use. Those are not easy conversations to have with your doctor, but changing bad habits now will pay off in dividends later. Getting a handle on your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels will also help keep your heart in top condition.
Review your family medical history to see if there are any risk factors that might need extra attention. For example, if heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure run in the family, alerting your doctor to such risk factors may help shape the long-term plan for your health.
Your physical may also include the following health screenings, recommended by the National Institutes of Health:
- Body mass index should be checked at each physical.
- Men over the age of 34 should have their cholesterol checked every five years.
- Eye exams should occur every two years. A glaucoma screening should be performed at age 45 and should be a regular part of your eye exam starting at age 65.
- Colon cancer screenings should start at age 50, though African-Americans need to start screenings at age 45. If the patient has a first-degree relative (parent, sibling) with a history of colon cancer, then the patient should have their first colonoscopy when they are ten years younger than the relative was when they found out.
- Discuss prostate screening options with your doctor at age 50. African-Americans and those with a family history of prostate cancer should discuss screening options at age 45.
- Men between the ages of 50 and 70 with risk factors for osteoporosis should discuss osteoporosis screenings with their doctor. A bone density test (DEXA) is suggested for all men over age 70.
- Your hearing should be checked annually starting at age 65.
- Get a flu shot every year after age 50.
- Get a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years.
- Get a shingles or herpes zoster vaccine after age 50
Ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated against pneumonia. The vaccine is suggested for all men over age 65.
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