According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, for generally healthy individuals, a check up by a physician is in order at least by the time males reach age 35 and females reach age 45.
"For generally healthy adults, if you haven't seen the doctor for the last five years, you should see a doctor. At that visit, the doctor will see what screenings you need according to what risk factors you have, such as obesity or a family history of certain conditions," Dr. Suman Regmi of the Center for Family Medicine in Minot, said.
"Everybody should have their own primary care doctor, so their health can be looked at overall," he added.
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Dr. Regmi studies a list of recommended preventive health screenings.
Even when a patient is visiting the physician for other conditions, Regmi explained, preventive health issues should be talked about.
"When someone goes in to see a family physician, we address the acute problem first, and then we ask them when they have gotten their (preventive health) screenings, and we talk about vaccines," Regmi said.
During regular check-ups, Regmi explained, physicians can have more time to talk about preventive health, and they can check blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and fasting glucose levels, according to the needs of each particular patient.
Preventive screenings and vaccinations
Regmi explained that for women, regular preventive health screenings include a pap smear beginning by at least age 21 or three years after the onset of sexual activity, and mammograms beginning every two years after a woman turns 40.
The next screening women should have, starting after age 65, is a Dexa scan for osteoporosis.
"If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, such as low body weight, smoking, a family history, or fracture, then we would start osteoporosis screenings earlier," Regmi said.
A preventive screening both men and women should have is a colorectal cancer screening, after age 50. Individuals who are at high risk for the disease, such as those who have a first degree relative who has been diagnosed, should begin colorectal cancer screenings 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed.
For men, a general rule is that they should have prostate cancer screening after age 50, through a digital rectal exam. Another screening test, the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) can also be chosen.
"The recommendation on this screening is indeterminate, however, because doctors are not yet sure if by doing this test you will get a benefit or not," Regmi said.
Vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal disease are also recommended, with influenza vaccines recommended annually.
"Everybody over age 65 should get the pneumococcal vaccine once, but if they have other respiratory diseases like asthma or COPD, they should get one before age 65 and get a second dose at age 65," Regmi said.
Other preventive screenings that physicians may suggest include screenings for depression, alcohol abuse, and nicotine dependence.
Through regular preventive screenings, individuals can detect cancers early, find early heart disease and diabetes indicators that can be managed, and take steps to living a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, Regmi stressed, is continuing to participate in healthy behaviors.
"The most important thing is to practice healthy living, getting regular exercise, eating healthy food, and practicing healthier behaviors," Regmi said.