Why You Should Go See Your Primary Care Doctor — Even If You’re Healthy
When you look at your calendar, you’re pretty sure that it’s about as packed as it can get. Between work commitments, bridal showers, family birthdays, workout classes, after-work networking events, and the occasional full night of sleep, it seems like you’d need to drop in footnotes in order to add anything else. And while you know that it’s important to prioritize your health, sometimes, it feels like making time for meal prep and attending your pelvic exams is all that you have the bandwidth for.
Most of us go to parent-mandated checkups with our pediatricians annually growing up, but once we reach adulthood, we see specialists to manage our particular health concerns but rarely make the time for an appointment with a generalist. It’s time to change that! According to One Medical‘s Dr. Stephanie Long, people between the ages of 20 and 40 should plan for a physical every two to three years. (Way more manageable than the yearly visits you used to make to the pediatrician.) If your health insurance plan offers virtual consultations, Long also recommends taking advantage of them between appointments IRL.
“Physicals can be opportunities to engage in preventive health discussions with your primary care provider, but that conversation should go on throughout the year both virtually and in the office,” she says. “[A] physical can be the entrance into [being proactive and engaged with primary care], but thinking about wellness only once a year at a physical isn’t the right approach for a healthy life.”
In-person physical exams every two to three years are an important element of a healthy life. Here are five more reasons you should get them on the schedule:
1. It’s a good opportunity to discuss your habits. A physical exam doesn’t need to be awkward. Use the time to actually talk to your doctor about your habits and routines. They’ll know the right questions to ask to ensure that you’re on the right track with things like alcohol, exercise, diet, stress, anxiety, and more. “While this might seem more up the alley of your therapist — or your best friend — your doctor can apply his or her training to help change the elements of your life you’d like, fostering better long-term health habits,” Long says.
2. Make long-term plans for personal wellness. You’re likely harboring some health-related goals: Maybe you want to reduce the overall stress in your life, maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, rehab an old injury, or improve your gut health. While specialists can be key in achieving these goals, meeting with a generalist is often a first step, and from there can ensure your specific goals are also supporting your overall health.
3. It’s a chance to check in about your reproductive health. Your gynecologist may be your first stop for chatting about matters of birth control or getting pregnant, but your primary care doctor should also be kept in the loop about your family planning. They can help you make sure that all of your wellness decisions are supporting your choices to get pregnant… or not.
4. You need to stay on top of your family history and genetic risk factors. “Family history can contribute to your cancer screening recommendations or additional health screenings,” Long says. “As we move into an era of more precision and genetic medicine, it’s helpful to understand what tests are available, how they apply to your health, and how to make sense of the information if you decide to pursue testing.” Your primary care provider is probably the best keeper of all of the details you have available about your family history. They can advise you to seek advice from other doctors accordingly and, most importantly, keep you ahead of potential risks.
5. Your doctor can also touch on your mental health. As part of an overall exam, your primary care doctor will likely inquire about your mental health, which is especially important for those who aren’t currently working with a therapist or counselor. A regular check-in with a physician offers a good excuse for you to take stock of how things are going with your stress and anxiety levels so you can seek additional support if necessary.
Are you feeling inspired to get a physical on the calendar? Tweet us your tips @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)