Studies show, men are less likely to see the doctor for their annual checkup than women across all age ranges and demographics. That avoidance could be a large part of why on average, men die five years earlier than women.
So what should you do to take care of your health? There are some important things that everyone should do; like exercise, avoiding smoking or drinking too much alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight. There are also some things you need to check in with your doctor about, regardless of whether you feel sick or not.
Here are the most important questions and concerns to talk to your doctor about based on your age and current health status.
**Important: The following recommendations are for people who were never smokers, had all of their childhood vaccines, and don’t have any genetic or acquired diseases. People in those groups may need different screening strategies and vaccines.
Annual Checkup Guide: Your 20s
Guys in their 20s tend to feel like a superhero. Nothing ever hurts and you have the energy of an (almost) teenager. Why would you ever need to go see a doctor? There are still a couple of things you should talk to a doctor about, even if you feel great all the time.
- Vaccines: Annual influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and over unless there’s a specific contraindication. A one-time Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine is also recommended with a Td booster every 10 years.
- Blood Pressure: The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that adults aged 18-39 be screened for high blood pressure every 3-5 years if they have normal blood pressure and no risk factors for high blood pressure.
People at risk for high blood pressure include those who are overweight or obese and African Americans. If you are at high risk for hypertension, you should be screened annually.
Annual Checkup Guide: Your 30s
Your 30s is the decade when you traditionally start to feel your age. You’re certainly not “old,” but you’re not invincible anymore either. You may notice some aches and pains (knees, back, shoulders) and your energy isn’t quite what it used to be. You can’t stay up all night anymore without it impacting your mood and productivity the next day.
As for medical recommendations, not much changes from your 20s. You should still get a yearly flu shot and screen for hypertension every 3-5 years if you have no risk factors for hypertension. You will need a Td booster sometime in your 30s.
Annual Checkup Guide: Your 40s
Your 40s is when most chronic medical problems begin to manifest. This is also when medical costs begin to climb faster. Common diseases like hypertension and diabetes become much more common at this age. This is why medical recommendations begin to change.
- Vaccines: Vaccine are the same as in your 20s and 30s unless you have specific conditions, which may require more vaccines.
- Blood pressure: The USPSTF recommends blood pressure screening yearly starting at 40 even if you are not at increased risk for hypertension.
- Diabetes: The task force also recommends screening for diabetes every 3 years starting at age 40 in those without specific risk factors. People with risk factors should be considered for earlier and/or more frequent screening.
Risk factors for diabetes include overweight and obesity, a family history of diabetes, have a history of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, or are members of certain racial/ethnic groups (that is, African Americans, American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Hispanics or Latinos, or Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders). This is why many doctors screen for diabetes routinely in all of their patients.
- Heart disease: During your 40s, we also become more concerned about heart disease. The USPSTF recommends lipid screening to help assess for heart disease risk starting at 40. They also recommend repeating the test every 5 years for people without increased heart disease risk. This allows you and your doctor to estimate your risk and start a prevention program if necessary (for example: lifestyle changes and medications like statins).
Annual Checkup Guide: Your 50s
Your 50’s is when your body really begins to change. It may be more difficult to maintain your youthful physique, you may experience more pain, and your libido may not be what it used to be.
Health risks also continue to increase at this age, particularly for heart disease and certain types of cancer. Medical recommendations change to account for these risks.
All the previous recommendations stay the same, but there are a few new recommendations added at this age.
- Vaccines: There is one new vaccine recommendation for the zoster vaccine aka shingles vaccine. This vaccine helps protect against a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which lives in the nerves for life and can cause a very painful rash.
- Heart disease: The USPSTF recommends taking a daily baby aspirin (81mg) if you have a 10 year risk of heart disease that is 10% or higher and you don’t have a high risk of bleeding. This is meant to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. It is only recommended in those who are ready to take it daily for at least 10 years because it takes that long to see lower risks of colon cancer.
- Colon cancer: 50 is also the age that you should start getting screened for colon cancer even if you feel well and have no family history of colon cancer. There are different methods for screening for colon cancer and they should be repeated every 1-10 years depending on the method used.
Annual Checkup Guide: Your 60s
By now, you’ve probably gotten used to not feeling quite like you did at 25. In the twenty-first century you can still enjoy many more active years in your 60s, but it does require close attention to your health and risk factors.
There are very few new health recommendations during this decade. Most of the focus should remain on the same things in the guide from your 50s.
One addition is the pneumonia vaccine that is recommended for everyone starting at age 65. This vaccine should be followed by a second type of pneumonia vaccine one year later.