With controversies over health care legislation, constant breaking news about drugs and pharmaceuticals, and a growing collective concern over meeting our self-care needs,聽you鈥檇 think that getting regular check-ups would be high on most of our priority lists. But between tracking down GPs and specialists in your insurance network, scheduling appointments that don鈥檛 conflict with other obligations, and getting up the courage to ask about that weird health symptom that鈥檚 been plaguing you, many of us push our own personal health to the back of our minds. We鈥檙e helping you break that cycle and step up to the #adulting plate by laying out the five health professionals you should be seeing on the reg 鈥 and why.

1. General Practitioner:聽Your GP聽should be聽a one-stop shop for making sure your bod is in proper working order.聽According to the聽CDC, more than half of all doctor鈥檚 visits made annually are to primary care physicians. The most common reason for getting to the doctor聽is for prescription medication, but聽that shouldn鈥檛 be the only reason you give your primary care physician a call.

By establishing a rapport with a general practitioner when you鈥檙e feeling well, you鈥檒l get better care and feel more comfortable going in when you鈥檙e ill. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance carriers are mandated to cover one well visit per year as 鈥減reventative care.鈥 Take advantage of this provision by stopping by your GP聽once annually聽for a check-up on your vitals, vaccine boosters, and routine blood work.

2. Gynecologist:聽For years, conventional medical wisdom advised women to check in with their gynecologist for a wellness check and pelvic exam once per year, and the hallmark of this exam was the yearly Pap smear test. But these guidelines are currently being reevaluated 鈥斅燼ccording to聽Harvard Health, it may be time to throw them out the window. While a yearly Pap smear can鈥檛 harm you, it may be unnecessary if your results have come back normal for three years in a row. And once you鈥檙e over the age of 30, the recommendation decreases from annual to bi-annual Pap smears, anyway.

For now, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) still recommends keeping an appointment with the gyno during each calendar year. This might still be the smartest course of action, as it gives you an opportunity to have your breasts checked for abnormalities and discuss any sexual health concerns with your provider. Dr. Renjie Chang, a practicing OB/GYN and women鈥檚 health advocate, agrees with this course of action for several reasons.聽She says, 鈥淭here are many early indicators of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, and cervical cancer. Early detection can make a huge difference in聽outcome.鈥 Citing some examples of symptoms we might be tempted to ignore, she continues, 鈥淎n overactive bladder could be an early sign of interstitial cystitis, which leads to chronic pelvic pain. Even something as minor as bad odor could indicate bacterial vaginosis, which, left untreated, can cause premature birth. The earlier something is found, the easier the treatment becomes.鈥

3. Dentist:聽To keep your teeth gleaming white 鈥 and get an early jump on dental conditions like gum disease and cavities 鈥 it鈥檚 recommended that you visit the dentist for a cleaning once every six months. If this聽is something you鈥檇 be tempted to skip, perhaps this will make your reconsider: Some studies聽link聽dental care to better quality of life and improved health overall. Twice a year is the ideal, and annual is the bare minimum to hop in the dentist鈥檚 chair.

4. Optometrist:聽If you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you鈥檙e probably used to visiting the optometrist once per year to get that prescription renewed. But if you鈥檝e never had impaired vision, it might be hard to come to terms with it; in fact, you might not even notice. As we age, the clarity of our vision decreases gradually, which can affect our ability to read, drive, and perform at work. It can also give you migraines. That鈥檚 why a simple vision test once every other year is a good idea. You鈥檒l also be tested for glaucoma during this exam and answer questions about your family history.

5. Mental Health Professional:聽Visiting a聽therapist doesn鈥檛 have to be reserved for times of crisis. You should have a psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed counselor on your list of preferred medical professionals so that when you need one, you鈥檝e got one in your contacts. You might not feel like you need to see a therapist at the moment, and that鈥檚 great! But there鈥檚 nothing wrong with checking in to get in touch with what鈥檚 going on with your heart, soul, and spirit.

Carolyn Wagner, a licensed professional聽counselor聽and psychotherapist聽practicing in聽Wilmette, IL, put it this way: 鈥淧eople often think that something聽has to be wrong to seek out a therapist, but that鈥檚 simply not the case.聽Therapy can help keep you from getting to a place where something seems or聽feels wrong. Much like your annual well visit to your physician, therapists聽can help you assess how things are going in your life, identify areas for聽potential problems, and provide ideas for how to prevent those problems from coming to fruition.鈥

It also means knowing where to find help when you need it. Wagner adds, 鈥淸Well visits] also establish a聽relationship with a therapist so that if you do find yourself having聽difficulty in the future, it鈥檚 easier for you to reach out for help.鈥 Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can manifest聽as physical pain if left untreated, and times of career transition, big relationship changes, and childbirth (read: ages 21-35) tend to be especially fraught with worry and instability. Consider your mental hygiene to be as essential as any other part of your body, and get thee to a psychologist who can assess your state of mind.

The easiest way to stop putting off seeing the doctor is to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Figure out the rest 鈥 whether you鈥檒l need time off, whether or not your insurance will cover the cost of your care, etc. 鈥 later. By getting on the books with the doctors you need to see, you鈥檙e making a commitment to yourself that will pay off for years.

Have you made a commitment to be more intentional about your health? Tell us on Twitter at @BritandCo!

(Illustration via Torii Burnett)