Keeping Your Health in Check
The Importance of Getting Check-Ups and Regular Health Exams
Regular check-ups with your doctors are a good way to make sure you are healthy and stay healthy. Even if you feel good and do not have any health issues or concerns at the time, check-ups can help find health problems early, ensuring they are treated promptly.
I see newborns and kids very frequently. In the first year of life, infants need to be seen at two weeks, one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months and then we gradually space these visits out. It’s very important infants are seen frequently as we track their development and weight gain. Adults need to be seen for a physical every year. I always recommend seeing your doctor around your birthday so it is easy to remember. The best birthday gift you can give yourself is a clean bill of health. At a certain age, there are recommended health maintenance checks you should get every year, including:
• Clinical Breast Exam/Mammogram: Age 40
• Cervical Cancer Screening: Age 21
• Women between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every three years.
• Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have both a Pap test and an HPV test every five years.
• Once between ages 9 and 11 (before puberty)
• Once between ages 17 and 21 (after puberty)
• Every 4 to 6 years as an adult
• Colorectal Cancer Screening: Men and women age 50 to 75 years old
• High Blood Pressure: Adults age 18 and older
• Immunizations and Vaccines:
• Immunization schedules can vary but are typically given at birth, 1-2 months old, 2 months old, 4 months old, 6 months old, 6-18 months old, 12-15 months old, 12-23 months old, 15-18 months old, 4-6 years old, 11-12 years old, and 16-18 years old. It is best to talk to your doctor about what is needed and what is best for your child.
• The flu vaccine is recommended every year, starting at six months of age.
• Shingles vaccine at 60 years of age
• Pneumonia vaccine at 65 years of age
• TDap: Every 10 years
• Oral Health Check-Ups for Adults: Every six months or as recommended by your dentist
• Prostate Cancer Screening: Men ages 55 to 69 Screening recommendations and needs
vary for each person and depend on age, risk factors, gender, lifestyle and family history. Some screenings are recommended to be performed at a person’s discretion or when changes are observed, like skin cancer, and you should always consult your primary care physician if you notice a change in your body and need to schedule a screening appointment before the recommended age. Remember that you are the expert on your body! You can find helpful resources on screening recommendations and guidelines at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org, www.cdc.gov/prevention, and www.cancer.org.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends doing the following four things before your next check-up appointment with your doctor:
1. Review your family health history.
2. Find out what general screenings or vaccinations you need and if you are due for them.
3. Write down any questions or concerns you would like to talk about with your doctor. Have you noticed any changes in your health, or have you made any lifestyle changes? Do you have questions about medications and their effects? Do you know all the medications and dosages you are on?
4. Be open and honest! It is also a good idea to take notes about your doctor’s answers or important things you want to remember.
5. Think about your future. Are you planning on starting a family and trying to get pregnant soon? Are you trying to lose weight or stop smoking? Knowing your future plans and how they might affect your health can help your doctors ensure you stay healthy through these life changes.
Life gets busy, and it can be hard to remember doctor’s appointments and easy to put them off for other things like school, work, travel and everyday life. Make your checkup appointment around a time that’s easy to remember, such as I mentioned for adults – around their birthday – or the beginning of the school year for kids. You can also schedule them to be during national health observances like National Women’s Health Week (around Mother’s Day in May), National Men’s Health Week (around Father’s Day in June) or Children’s Health Month (October). It might be easy to remember your annual screening appointments if you schedule them during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), National Prostate Health Month (September) or National Cancer Prevention Month (February). Keep an eye out for local events that might provide free screenings during these times as well, like Family Health Day at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center each February, or look for clinics in your area that host events and schedule screenings throughout the year, like Partners in Wellness in Shreveport.
The best way to stay healthy is to take charge of your health, be an advocate for yourself and know your full medical history, including the medications you are taking. The more knowledge you have, the more empowered you will be to make better healthcare decisions.
Rupa Mahadevan, MD, is an assistant professor of medicine/ pediatrics at LSU Health Shreveport and is a lifestyle and integrative medicine physician at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center focused on cancer survivorship and well-being.