An annual physical exam is an important way to develop a relationship with your primary care physician and to stay on top of your overall health. Checking on your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels is essential to staying healthy. Even if you feel healthy, a yearly check-up can help detect medical issues that don’t have symptoms – plus, it’s a great time to talk to your doctor about what recommended screenings you should get.
Here are some general recommendations Dr. Michael Majetich with Lake Health Physician Group SOM Center Primary Care in Willoughby shares with his patients on when to start these common screenings:
Age 18: Begin screening for high blood pressure
- High blood pressure is a very common condition, affecting approximately 30% of the adult population. It’s also one of the most diagnosed conditions at outpatient office visits.
- If you have a higher than normal blood pressure reading at a visit, your doctor may recommend at-home blood pressure monitoring to better establish your baseline blood pressure.
Age 18: Begin screening for depression
- Depression is among the leading causes of disability in people 15 years and older. It affects individuals, families, businesses and society as a whole.
- It’s recommended all adults be screened regardless of risk factors.
Age 35: Begin screening for high cholesterol
- High cholesterol is an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, including cerebrovascular disease, coronary heart disease and peripheral arterial disease. It usually doesn’t cause symptoms until significant hardening of the arteries has developed.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) strongly recommends screening men 35 years and older with additional recommendations to start screening men starting at age 20 if they’re at increased risk of coronary heart disease.
- Increased risks include having diabetes, personal history of coronary heart disease or non-coronary atherosclerosis, family history of cardiovascular disease before 50 years of age in male relatives or 60 years of age in female relatives, tobacco use, high blood pressure and obesity.
Age 40: Begin conversation with health care provider regarding prostate cancer screening
- Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that affects men. Many men with prostate cancer never experience symptoms and, without screening, would never know they have the disease.
- If prostate cancer is found as a result of screening, it will probably be at an earlier, more treatable stage than if no screening were done.
- The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer.
- The discussion about screening should take place at:
- Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer.
- Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
- Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Age 45: Begin screening for diabetes
- Among men 20 years and older, more than 15 million have diabetes and approximately 44.5 million have prediabetes — and most don’t even know it. Diabetes combined with other chronic conditions leads to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease within 10 years. Diabetes education programs can help you prevent or better manage diabetes.
- Other recommendations include screening for diabetes in adults ages 40 to 70 years old who do not have symptoms of diabetes but are overweight or obese.
- People who have a family history of diabetes or are members of certain racial/ethnic groups may be at increased risk for diabetes at a younger age or at a lower body mass index.
Age 45 – 50: Begin colorectal cancer screenings
- Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States with the vast majority of new cases of colorectal cancer occurring in people who are 50 and older.
- The American Cancer Society advises colorectal screenings for people at average risk start at age 45.
- The USPSTF recommends screening for colorectal cancer until age 75 years. The decision to screen for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years should be an individual one, taking into account the patient’s overall health and prior screening history.
Age 55: Begin low-dose CT scans for lung cancer, if you have a certain history of smoking
- Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. As a result, a low-dose CT scan is recommended annually for people ages 55 to 80 without lung cancer symptoms who have a history of heavy smoking (smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years) and who continue to smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Age 65: Begin screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) if prior smoking history
- Most AAAs are asymptomatic until they rupture. Although the risk for rupture varies greatly by aneurysm size, the associated risk for death with rupture is as high as 81%.
- Important risk factors for AAA include older age, male sex, smoking and having a first-degree relative with an AAA.
It’s important to remember that your doctor may recommend you begin certain screenings earlier based on your family history or other risk factors. The best way to know what screening timelines are best for you is to have an ongoing conversation with your doctor about your lifestyle, any symptoms you experience and changes in your family health history.