As we get older, our health needs change—and so do our needs for getting regular health screenings.
Health screenings are a key way to keep tabs on our overall health, make sure we’re staying healthy for our changing ages and catch any potential health issues early.
So what’s important to check for, and when? And for whom? It can be confusing to keep it straight when we’re all so busy anyway.
Knowing when to get screened for different types of conditions can help you stay in the best possible health. The good news is Clearwater Benefits and most other healthcare plans include $0 preventive health services for adults and children—so there’s no cost to you for most shots and screening tests.
This health screening timeline guide provides an overview of recommended screenings for men and women during different decades of their lives.
Ah, youth. It’s easy not to worry about preventive health checks in your twenties, when you may be in peak physical condition, eating right and exercising. Your twenties are when you’re in your athletic prime, and thoughts of colonoscopies seem light years away.
But the twenties are an important decade for men and women to start getting certain medical screenings, and annual checkups. Build good habits now and your future self will thank you.
The twenties are also a smart time for getting baseline readings on your cholesterol and blood pressure, to make sure nothing’s off, and for checking for early warning signs on any medical conditions that may run in your family, like asthma or cancer.
For women in their twenties, a pap smear is recommended every three years, to check for cervical cancer. Men should have a testicular exam. Checking for sexually transmitted diseases like HIV might make sense, too.
When you reach your thirties, it’s time to build upon your health screening habits and start checking for some other things. If you’re not getting your bloodwork done annually, start now. Doctors can watch how your vitals are evolving and provide course corrections on things like diet or stress management accordingly.
Whether or not you worship the sun, it’s smart to watch for early signs of skin cancer, too. Melanoma is a silent killer that can develop in the body without detection and by the time you know it’s there, it’s too late. Check with a dermatologist—and if you’ve been slacking on the sunscreen, start to lather it up.
The thirties are a good time to check your A1C count, to monitor for potential Type 2 diabetes, and to test for Hepatitis C. Women should start getting pelvic and breast exams to keep an eye out for signs of cancer. Similarly, men should look into prostate exams.
And if you haven’t had your eyes checked recently? Now’s the time. You may not even realize how badly you’ve been squinting at your phone until an optometrist checks you out.
As you move into your forties, regular checkups and health screenings only grow in importance.
For men and women, now’s the time to get more serious about your weight. Obesity affects more than 40% of Americans, and can lead to health troubles like heart disease and strokes. Check your body mass index (BMI) for signs of obesity, and your glucose levels, for diabetes.
Take a bone density test, to see for signs of osteoporosis.
For women, this is the decade to start getting mammograms. Regular mammograms exams are the best ways to detect breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S. Continue getting pap smears and pelvic checks every three years, and keep checking your cholesterol and blood pressure.
For men, prostate and colorectal cancer checks should be a regular part of your routine exams.
In addition to health screenings, your forties is when you want to consider vaccinations for shingles and pneumonia. And don’t neglect your mental health. If you’re feeling depression or anxiety, whether age-related or not, speak up.
By now you should be checking most of the things mentioned above. Blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, BMI and bone density tests are no-brainers. So, too, is continuing to schedule regular mammograms, pap smears and prostate exams.
In essence, keep up the good work.
The big new test to include now is your colonoscopy. Doctors conduct these tests to check for cancerous / precancerous colon polyps in your bowels and lower intestine, but also look into conditions like colitis and diverticulitis. These tests can help doctors explore possible causes of abdominal and intestinal pain, as well as catch cancer at its early stages.
Finally, it’s worth noting that this is just a general guideline and individual needs may vary. Some people may need to have screenings earlier or more frequently, based on things like family history and past medical conditions.
It’s important to discuss your own health with your doctor, for a specific screening timeline. And if you notice any unusual symptoms, speak up.