How Often Should You See Your Primary Care Physician in Your 60’s?

Now that you’re in your 60’s, you may be wondering how often should you visit a doctor? Sure, you’re wiser and probably better at a few things than you were when you were younger, though staying healthy is the key to maintaining your good quality of life.

senior man getting a check up from his physican

And that’s where seeing your physician for regular checkups comes in.

How Often Should Adults 60-and-above Get a Checkup?

Once you’ve reached your golden 60’s, certain factors including your age will determine how often to get a check up. For most of us, this means going roughly twice as often as when we were between 18 – 44 years old, though some may require more frequent physicals.

For healthy adults over the age of 60, every 1 – 3 years is typically how often you should visit your doctor.

And according to Paul Takahashi, MD, adults who take medications for chronic conditions should see their primary care physician at least once per year to stay on top of any preventative screenings such as blood sugar test or mammograms. This way, any diseases can be properly managed. You should also see your doctor more frequently if you are overweight, smoke, or have other unhealthy habits or health conditions.

Of course, this doesn’t mean don’t fix what isn’t broken by ignoring doctor visits when you feel fine. Remember that even though you aren’t currently experiencing any discomfort, seeing your doctor annually for early detection is the safest thing you can do.

What Should You Expect From a Physical?

Upon visiting your doctor for your routine checkup, there are a few things you can expect once the nurse takes you to the examination room.

First, the nurse will check your vital signs including your blood pressure before reviewing your history of health conditions, medications, lifestyle, and other points of your medical record may also be discussed. If there are any changes in your medical history since your last visit such as surgeries or changing symptoms, this will also be discussed along with possible treatment plans.

You will also be asked if there are any prescriptions that need refilling, and there should be a screening assessment for depression and alcohol and/or drug use as well.

Next, it’s time to meet with your doctor for the in-depth part, though not until after the nurse has left and you’ve changed from your street clothes into a hospital gown. For this reason, the doctor will give a privacy knock before entering to begin your exam.

Once you and your doctor are in the private exam room together, your medical records will be reviewed and your doctor will likely ask you some questions based on what your records say. This is also a good time to ask your doctor any questions you may have, and you may also be counseled on your lifestyle and the findings of the nurse’s screening assessment, after which it’s time for your physical exam.

During it:

  • Your doctor will perform a visual inspection of your entire body to see if there are any odd growths of marks on you
  • The doctor will feel around your abdomen to “inspect” your internal organs and determine their size, location, sensitivity, and consistency
  • Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart, lungs, and bowels for abnormalities
  • Your doctor will tap your body using a technique called “percussion” to listen for sounds of unusual fluid retention
  • Women between the ages of 21 & 65 may also get a pap smear at this time
  • Your doctor may also include other examinations depending on your age, lifestyle, health risks, and other factors

Once this is complete, your doctor will discuss the findings, make recommendations, and let you know if there are any additional tests or treatments you may need. You will also be informed of any necessary medications, and you will pick up any prescriptions and instructions from a nurse while checking out.

What Screenings Happen During your Adult Physical?

Though some screenings such as for colon cancer are similar for both men and women, other tests are gender specific.

For instance, women over 50 can expect:

  • An annual mammogram until age 75
  • To have a pap smear done every 5-years. This is a test most women will need performed until they are between 65 and 70 years-old

Men over 50 can expect:

  • To review any family history of prostate cancer to determine a need for screenings
  • A screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms if you’re over 65 and are, or have been a smoker

Both sexes will get bone density scans (DEXA), since despite osteoporosis being more common in women, men are at risk for it too.

How can I Prepare for My Checkup? 

Careful preparation for your checkup can save you additional trips to the doctor, which is why it’s good to be prepared for your visit.

This should include gathering any paperwork, insurance card, and previous medical records, and making a list of any changes to your medical history to present during your exam. This should include any new symptoms, reactions to medications, or allergies since your last visit.

You should also be sure your living will is up to date before your checkup, and any changes to it should be presented to your doctor.

Be sure your medication list, including any vitamins, herbal remedies, or supplements you use is up to date, and be prepared to bring in any medication bottles the doctor requests to see.

If you have any special needs, such as for an interpreter or wheelchair access, you should let the doctor’s office know ahead of time to avoid complications and delays.

What Should be Included? 

For every checkup, there are some standard tests that are included, even if you just had them done.

These include your temperature, height, weight, pulse, and blood pressure, all of which will be compared to your previous numbers. There should also be a discussion about any previous illness, medications, drug or alcohol use, and any other concerning conditions. This will include a discussion about your family history along with screenings for any chronic diseases your family has a history of.

What are the benefits of an annual physical?

How often you visit a doctor determines a lot when it comes to your health. That’s because early detection is not only key in identifying diseases and conditions before they become serious, but in improving your odds of a good outcome.

For health issues you do have, regular monitoring reduces the chance of things becoming severe.

Plus, regular physicals allow you to keep up on vaccines and health screenings, and can potentially lower your health care costs by catching conditions before they become complex and expensive.

That, and it’s a great way to maintain an open and honest relationship with your physician to better help you live a longer, healthier, and high quality life.

*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.