With as hectic as our everyday lives can be, it’s easy to put your health on the backburner. It can feel like a monumental task to rearrange your day around a healthcare appointment — not to mention, so many people would rather put off going to the doctor altogether unless there’s an emergency.
However, when you’re not making regular appointments to get yourself checked out, it might not matter how healthy you think you feel (or how busy your schedule is) — you could be missing important signs that things aren’t quite right with your health.
Since the year is just ending, now is the perfect time to catch up on the appointments that you’ve been missing, in order to start the new year off with peace of mind. Here are four vital appointments that you should catch up on, and that you ought to be making every year:
1. Annual Physical
This one comes first, because it’s the most important. Having your primary care physician check your health once a year is paramount to ensuring that your body’s working the way it should. Your annual physical should be an appointment where your weight and blood pressure are taken, your body is visually assessed for any strange lumps or marks, and your routine blood work is completed.
This appointment is also the ideal time to tell your GP about any health concerns you’ve been having, or if you need any new prescriptions or vaccinations. Additionally, your physician has the ability to refer you to a specialist if ongoing care or exams are needed.
Many people put off the annual physical because they feel healthy, or else they avoid it with an attitude of, “I’d rather not know if anything’s wrong.” However, catching issues early can be a game-changer — particularly if it’s a hidden ailment that can develop into something more serious — and so it’s always best to be proactive when it comes to your health.
2. Dentist Appointments
When people think about their general health, they tend to overlook a very important piece in their overall wellbeing: their teeth. What’s going on in your mouth can be the canary in the coal mine when it comes to health problems, which is why it’s extra important to have regularly scheduled dentist appointments. Not only is it vital for keeping your teeth white, but regular cleanings help stave off cavities and gum disease, and your dentist will also be looking for any issues like grinding, gum recession, or loose teeth.
Typically, you should be getting your teeth checked once every six months, but depending on the health of your mouth and the state of your teeth, your dentist might make it every 3-4 months instead. It’s still worth it to make sure you’ve got a dentist appointment in your calendar at least once a year.
3. Eye Care Checkups
As you get older, your sight may not stay as 20/20 as it was when you were younger. In fact, changes to your vision can happen so slowly that you don’t even notice — which can be a huge problem when it comes to driving safely and reading. Degenerating eyesight is especially an issue for women because, as Verily notes, 2.3 million of the 4.1 million Americans with eye problems are female due to “longer life spans and hormonal changes.” Plus, eyestrain could be a contributor to nasty migraines.
Even if you’re not currently wearing prescription glasses or contacts, it’s smart to make an appointment with an optometrist every two years, particularly if you’re over the age of 40 (when eye diseases such as glaucoma or cataracts can begin to develop).
4. Sexual Health Exams
If you’re a sexually active female, you should be making an appointment to see a gynecologist at least once every year, or on the schedule your doctor recommends. Gynecologists will perform breast and pelvic exams to make sure that there are no lumps or growths in the affected areas, and they can answer questions you have about fertility as well.
Not only will this exam focus on your sexual health and test for any STDs you may be concerned about, your doctor will also administer Pap smears to check for cervical cancer. Although the traditional recommendation of getting a Pap smear once per year has been changed from every year to every 2-3 years, seeing a gynecologist annually can help alleviate a lot of concerns about sexual and reproductive health.
For men, you should be talking to your doctor about prostate health and if you need an exam by age 50; if your family history or other personal risk factors are cause for concern, your doctor may talk to you about it before you turn 50. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of men’s death in the US, behind lung cancer.
Don’t Ignore Your Healthcare
At the start of a new year, you can decide what you want to change about your habits — and making these appointments a part of your annual routine is a great place to start. No matter what appointment you’re looking to make, schedule it with your Tri-City Medical Center affiliated providers — and always let us know if you have any questions about your health.