These Are the Doctors’ Appointments You Need to Make Every Year
Originally Published September 20, 2019 on Health | By Lauren Gray
Avoidance isn’t going to make any issues go away!
When you leave a doctor’s appointment, your MD might tell you to schedule a follow-up in a few weeks, six months, a year, or maybe even longer. Understandably, it can be hard to keep track of it all—or maybe you’re tempted to conveniently “forget,” whether that’s due to fear of what your doctor might find, or concerns about cost. In fact, a 2018 survey from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that 40 percent of Americans reported skipping recommended health care appointments in the previous year for financial reasons alone.
However, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking your medical care into your own hands could literally be life-saving, and it could also save you money in the long run on treatments and tests. If you’re ready to take charge of your health but aren’t sure where to begin, worry not, because we’ve rounded up a list of the doctors’ appointments you should be making every year.
1. See your primary care physician.
“Seeing a health care provider yearly is the ideal way to navigate any health issues you may or may not be aware of,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB/GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. At your primary care physician’s office, you get checked for things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and overactive and underactive thyroid, all of which can cause serious health issues down the line if left untreated.
2. Visit your cardiologist.
A 2012 data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 47 percent of adult Americans have at least one of the three major risk factors for cardiovascular failure. Translation? A trip to the cardiologist could be among your most pressing doctors’ appointments. Specifically, you might want to look into getting regular electrocardiograms, commonly known as an ECGs or EKGs, which allow doctors to look at your heart rhythm, evaluate your blood flow, and more.
3. Get your skin checked at the dermatologist.
When considering all the various doctors to pay a visit to each year, people often regard a trip to the dermatologist as low priority. But while it may be tempting to dismiss them as largely cosmetic, dermatologists can actually be instrumental in early cancer detection.
Seeing as an estimated one in five Americans develop skin cancer throughout their lifetime, it would be wise to add a visit to the dermatologist to your calendar annually for a full body check. After all, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected in the early stages is 99 percent, while the five-year survival rate for distant stage melanoma is 23 percent.
4. Visit your eye doctor.
Those without vision problems have the luxury of one less doctor’s appointment to think about—until the age of 40, that is. Doctors say that once you reach this point in your life, it’s time to have frequent vision tests done regardless of whether you’re noticing any changes to your eyesight.
As the American Academy of Ophthalmology explains, after 40, you should be seeing the eye doctor every two to four years in order to get checked for things like glaucoma and other eye diseases. Once you’re over the age of 55, however, you should plan on seeing your ophthalmologist annually, even if your vision is still 20/20.
5. See a gastroenterologist.
Gastrointestinal diseases impact between 60 and 70 million Americans annually, according to a 2012 paper published in the journal Gastroenterology. If you’re one of the many dealing with abdominal pain, reflux, or other GI issues, you should plan on consulting a gastroenterologist at least once a year to come up with a proper treatment plan and, afterward, to make sure it’s still working.
Even if you don’t have chronic stomach pain or something similar, seeing the gastroenterologist could be the very thing that saves your life. This specific doctor is the one responsible for colonoscopies, which screen for colon cancer and can help catch it in its early stages. “Currently 6 percent of individuals will suffer from this common form of cancer during their lifetime, [and it] can be prevented [with] a proper screening,” explains Dr. Ashkan Farhadi, a gastroenterologist and director of MemorialCare Medical Group’s Digestive Disease Project in Fountain Valley, California.
6. Work with a nutritionist to keep your weight in check.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, quite a few Americans who meet the technical requirements for being deemed “overweight” or “obese” don’t see themselves themselves as such. And while this may be a positive for our collective self-esteem, it also means that people aren’t taking into account the health risks associated with their excess belly fat.
If you want to take control of your weight, nutrient levels, and more, seeing a nutritionist might be the way to go. Working with a nutritionist is a great way to ensure that you are setting realistic nutrition and exercise goals for yourself, ones that don’t limit your intake or prevent you from living your best life.
7. Sit down with your psychiatrist.
Whether you’re already taking medication or are weighing the pros and cons of seeing someone for your anxiety, it pays to visit the psychiatrist’s office at least once a year. If you are on medication, regular, productive visits to the psychiatrist ensure that you’re adjusting your dosages accordingly and switching medicines entirely if and when side effects arise. And if you’re experiencing any sort of mental health issue, then meeting with a psychiatrist could be the first step in managing it.
8. Check in with your endocrinologist.
Both men and women can benefit from seeing an endocrinologist. As the CDC’s 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report points out, diabetes impacts an estimated 30.3 million Americans, and it’s at the endocrinologist that you can get properly tested and treated for this disease.
But that’s not the only reason to see your endocrinologist. This hormone-focused doctor also tests for and treats thyroid disorders, low testosterone levels in men, and PCOS in women, just to name a few disorders within their domain.
9. Visit the dentist.
No one looks forward to visiting the dentist, so it’s little surprise that so many of us conveniently “forget” to make this specific doctor’s appointment. Exhibit A: One 2010 study published in Journal of Dental Research found that while 82 percent of 15-year-old study participants saw a dentist annually (thanks to the diligence of parents), that number dropped to 28 percent by the age of 32.
The truth is, you should force yourself to go to the dentist at least once a year—if not for your teeth, then for your overall wellbeing. When Indian researchers evaluated various studies regarding the link between cardiovascular disease and poor dental hygiene in 2010, they concluded that gum disease increased a person’s risk of heart disease by 20 percent.
10. See an allergist.
According to a 2008 study published in the journal Nature, allergic disorders affect roughly 25 percent of people in the developed world. And if you’re part of that statistic, seeing an allergist regularly could change your quality of life dramatically.
With the help of an allergist, you can identify your triggers, come up with an effective treatment plan, and even get immunotherapy shots to alleviate symptoms. While most patients can work with their allergists to come up with a two-year plan, you’ll want to make your appointments annual if your symptoms are severe or if you notice that your treatment plan isn’t working.
11. Check in with your OB/GYN.
If there’s one appointment women shouldn’t skip, it’s an annual check-up with their OB/GYN. At this appointment, your gynecologist will check for STIs, examine your uterus and ovaries, perform a breast exam, address any reproductive concerns you may have, and so much more.
And if you need more motivation to see your gynecologist, consider that making an annual appointment with your OB/GYN could help you detect cancer in its early (and more treatable) stages. According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of invasive cervical cancers are seen in women who have not had regular Pap tests.
12. Get a mammogram at the radiologist.
If you’re a woman over the age of 40, scheduling annual mammograms with a radiologist should be at the top of your health care to-do list. As the Mayo Clinic notes, “screening mammograms can detect breast abnormalities early in women in their 40s.” In fact, one 2018 study published in the journal Cancer found that women who participated in breast cancer screenings had a 60 percent lower risk of dying from the disease within 10 years of their diagnosis.
13. Have a bone density screening with a rheumatologist.
As we age, all of us experience a decrease in bone density. That’s why, according to the Mayo Clinic, women over 65 and men over 70 should plan on making regular checkups to screen their bone density, as should any adults who experience symptoms of osteoporosis, a bone disorder that makes breaks and fractures more frequent. Working with a rheumatologist can ensure that, should your bone mineral content get too low, you are put on the proper medications and are taking the proper precautions to avoid bad breaks.
14. See a physical therapist.
While they may not technically be doctors, physical therapists can still prove essential to your health care routine. Old injuries and muscle strains can be hard to shake, and if you’re dealing with any kind of ongoing pain or discomfort, periodically checking in with a physical therapist to learn new stretches and exercises can help you improve your health at home.
15. Get adjusted by a chiropractor.
According to a 2015 study in the journal Spine, roughly 50 percent of adults experience chronic lower back pain. The good news? Even minimal intervention from a chiropractor can work wonders. In the study, 94 percent of participants who received just a few chiropractic treatments over a four-week period reported at least a 30 percent reduction in their back pain six months later. And for more things you can do to stay healthy, check out these 20 Healthy Living Rules You Should Live By.