How Often Should I Get a Physical (by Age Range)?

A physical is your chance to speak to your doctor about any health concerns you have. It’s also the time when your doctor can spot any changes to your health since the last time you had an appointment.

Smiling female doctor examining senior patient in hospital

But you still may wonder, how often should I get a physical? Here are some answers to your questions.

As an adult, how often should I get a physical?

Expert opinion varies as to how often you should see your doctor for a checkup. But everyone seems to agree that meeting regularly with your doctor can help improve your overall health and strengthen your relationship with your physician.

Many factors come into play when deciding how often to have a checkup. For example, if you live with a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease, your doctor may recommend more frequent visits.

As a general guideline, you should have a checkup once every two to three years until the age of 50. This might be a good estimate for a generally healthy adult under the age of 30. In your 30s and 40s, you might want to consider going every second year.

After the age of 50, seeing your doctor once a year is one of the best ways to maintain your health.

Some doctors recommend starting the routine of an annual physical after the age of 40. Speak to your doctor about what they would recommend for you.

What are the benefits of getting an annual checkup?

Even with these guidelines in place, there are many reasons to consider an annual checkup.

First, this is an opportunity for you and your doctor to get to know each other. This helps establish a trusting relationship. It also lets your doctor know about your general approach to healthcare. This is particularly valuable when acute, chronic or emergency health situations arise.

Second, it gives your doctor the chance to take baseline readings of your critical health information. Having that baseline information of what is normal for you makes it easier to analyze changes in your health over time.

The annual checkup is also an important time to schedule routine health screenings. Your physician can also answer any questions that you may have about your mental and physical health and any changes in your life that may affect your overall well-being.

What should be included in your checkup as an adult?

There are a number of things you should expect from a physical, regardless of your gender and age, and a few additional recommendations or discussions that your doctor may have, depending on your personal health status and your gender.

A regular physical generally includes:

  • Monitoring of vital signs, such as your weight, height, blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Questions about how you are feeling. These might include whether you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or any unusual symptoms.
  • Performing a physical exam, such as listening to your heart, looking at your skin, checking your reflexes and looking inside your mouth and ears.
  • Asking about lifestyle factors, such as stress or drug and alcohol use.
  • Discussing whether to receive certain vaccinations or to perform routine tests.

Some gender-specific questions may include:

  • For women, a pap smear, bone density test or mammogram
  • For men, a prostate cancer screening or bone density test

If you are over the age of 40, your doctor may also want to test your cholesterol or recommend a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer.

What questions should you ask your physician?

There are many ways you can prepare for your appointment. Try to gather the following information and bring it with you:

  • A list of your medications and natural supplements.
  • Notes about any unusual medical symptoms you have experienced recently.
  • Your hearing aids or a personal interpreter to improve communication.

You may have many questions for your doctor. These are just a few that you may want to ask:

  • Do you recommend I continue with my medication?
  • What medical tests do you recommend and why?
  • What will happen during these tests?
  • When and how will I receive the results?
  • Do you recommend any vaccinations?
  • Do you have any advice for upcoming travel or family gatherings?
  • Are there steps I can take to reduce the medications I am taking?
  • When should I schedule my next appointment?

Before your appointment, you may want to discuss your health with your partner or loved one so they can suggest questions for you to ask. You should also feel comfortable bringing a friend or family member with you to the appointment, if you choose.

How can you find the right primary care physician?

Choosing a primary care provider is a very personal decision. You can follow these tips to find the right person who can be your new partner in health.

  • Ask family and friends for a recommendation
  • Ask your current doctor for a recommendation if they are retiring
  • Check with your insurance provider to see if the doctor’s services are covered
  • Learn about the doctor’s referral network and connections to specialists and hospitals
  • Schedule a meet and greet with a new doctor to see if they are a good fit

Above all, you should feel comfortable speaking openly with your doctor and feel that your concerns are heard.

When should you contact a primary care provider?

Your primary care physician is your first call for any non-emergency health concerns. They can help monitor long-term health conditions, like diabetes, and help track important vitals like blood sugar and blood pressure.

A family doctor can refer you to a specialist if you need more targeted treatment. Your primary care doctor is normally part of your care for many years, giving you a consistency of care.

Why should you choose Intermountain Health?

Intermountain Health is committed to offering the highest-quality care in your community. Our extensive primary care offerings include physicals for every stage of your life.

Our doctors also perform specialized physical exams, such as organized sports physicals and Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation eligibility physicals. To learn more about how Intermountain Health can be your partner in health, use our find a provider tool to make an appointment today.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician or qualified healthcare professional.

Part of being well is being heard.