Though most of us grow up with the idea of “annual checkups” pounded into our heads, it’s really not clear on how often we have to see the doctor. Is it once a year? When something is wrong with your body? When your tooth falls out? Whenever we feel like it?
Truth is, there’s no right answer or a timetable on the frequency of doctor visits. However, they’re guidelines that can help you decide. Here are five things to consider when trying to figure out how frequently you should be seeing your doctor:
- Can’t remember the last time you went to a doctor? Then it’s probably been too long. If you were going annually for a while and got a clean bill of health each time, you may be able to start spacing out the visits or skip one.
- Has anything changed since the last time you went to a doctor? Yes, you got a clean bill, but there’s that one symptom that’s been bothering. It’s probably that unexpected pelvic pain that’s giving you sleepless nights. Or that persistent pain in your stomach that won’t let you enjoy your lunch date in peace. Whatever the symptom, this is not the time to skip that pre-planned visit.
- Has something in your family medical history changed? Scary thought? We know. However, knowing your family history is important. It can impact your risk of certain diseases and the suggested screening tests to undergo. For example, if a parent or other first-degree relative was diagnosed with cancer, you should probably get screened.
- When was the last time the doctor told you to follow up? Was it six months? Or was it two years? If you’re not sure, you can always call the doctor’s office and ask.
- Was there something you wanted to follow up on with the doctor? If your cholesterol was borderline high during your last visit, your doctor may have recommended changing your lifestyle to try and bring it back down to normal. Or your weight was in the overweight category and you were going to try and lose a few kilos. If that’s the case, it’s good to follow up, even if you haven’t met your lifestyle goals yet. Maybe the first set of recommendations didn’t work for you, or maybe there are other professionals, like nutritionists, you would benefit from seeing. Whichever the case, your doctor can help you navigate these options in a bid to improve your health.
As with most things medical, there’s less to get freaked out about here than there might seem at first, so if you haven’t seen your doc since President Obama’s first term in office, don’t get anxious. Just get an appointment.