Keeping your family healthy is about the actions you take. Here are 16 annual checkups to schedule in order to keep your family healthy!
by Troop Atomic Mommy
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As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true when it comes to our family’s health. Taking proactive measures to keep our family healthy can save us time, money, and a lot of pain and suffering down the road.
One of the best ways to do this is to make sure we keep up with our annual checkups. These physicals allow us to catch potential problems early before they become more serious (and expensive) to treat.
But what exactly should we be getting checked out every year? Here are 16 annual checkups you and your family should make sure to schedule in order to keep your family healthy!
1. Physical Exam
This is probably the most obvious one, but it’s important to make sure you and your kids get a physical exam at least once a year. This is a good time to check in with your doctor about any new or persistent symptoms you may be experiencing, as well as to update them on any changes in your health or medications.
A physical exam is really simple and usually includes a review of your medical history, a discussion of any new or worsening symptoms, and a physical examination. The physical examination includes taking your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.), listening to your heart and lungs, and checking your body for any abnormalities. All of this information is recorded and kept confidential in your medical file for the future.
2. Blood Pressure Check
High blood pressure is a common condition that often either has no symptoms or difficult to track symptoms such as light headedness, dizziness, and headaches. If blood pressure goes unchecked, it can lead to serious health problems. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year, even if you feel perfectly healthy.
A blood pressure check is a simple, quick, and painless test. Your doctor will use a cuff to measure the force of the blood flowing through your arteries. The doctor will either check you blood pressure by manually pumping air into the cuff using a handheld pump, and then will check your blood pressure using a stethoscope. If a doctor opts to go modern, they will likely use an electronic machine that does the exact same thing as the manual method, but only using digital technology instead.
3. Cholesterol Test
Like high blood pressure, high cholesterol doesn’t cause immediate symptoms but can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Though, high cholesterol can often be seen as a sidekick to other serious health problems such as in obesity. A simple blood test can tell you if your cholesterol levels are high, so be sure to get checked out at least once a year.
4. Pap Smear
A pap smear is a test that checks for changes in the cells of the cervix, which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer. Women over the age of 21 should have a pap smear every three years or more frequently if they have certain risk factors. You can expect a pap smear to be quick and painless that involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix for examination. The sample is then sent out to the lab for evaluation and your results are usually ready within 3 to 5 business days.
Another test you should aim to schedule to keep your family healthy, are Mammograms. Mammograms are x-rays of the breast tissue that can detect early signs of breast cancer.
Women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every year or more frequently if they have certain risk factors. And while it’s more common for women to need this test, men should opt to take this test too, as breast cancer can occur in men as well, though rare.
A mammogram is not a quick and painless test, rather the test involves a thorough examination using a special machine that involves having your breasts compressed between two plates while images are taken. As the tissue is pressed together, you can expect some discomfort, and depending on the person, even some pain. The entire test is usually over after several minutes, and at times, you can ask for breaks in case the discomfort is too severe.
A colonoscopy is a test that looks for precancerous growths in the colon. It’s recommended for people over the age of 50, but can be prescribed earlier if a person has certain risk factors such as unknown pain, digestive issues, and a genetic predisposition.
The process of a colonoscopy is also not as quick and painless as other tests. This particular test involves inserting a long, flexible tube into the rectum and colon to take a look around. The doctor then fills the colon with air in order to see more clearly. If the doctor believes there is any irregularity, they could also take a biopsy of the surrounding tissue for further testing. The process usually takes anywhere between 30-60 minutes, but is very much worth it if you are trying to maintain good health for life. This process can sound a bit scary, so don’t schedule this test for anyone in your family who doesn’t need it.
7. Prostate Exam
A prostate exam is another test you should plan to schedule in order to keep your family healthy. It involves a digital rectal exam that checks for problems with the prostate gland. It’s recommended for men over the age of 50, though should be looked into in earlier ages, as more men younger than 50 are experiencing prostate issues.
A prostate exam is done by a doctor inserting a finger into the base of the rectum. The doctor will check the area for any abnormalities. Along with the physical part of this exam, a blood test will also be done to check for high levels of prostate-specific antigens in the blood. Both are very quick and painless, and the entire process shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes.
8. Bone Density Test
A bone density test is used to diagnose osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become weak and are more likely to break. It’s recommended for women over the age of 65, but can be done earlier if they have certain risk factors.
You should expect a bone density test to also be quick and painless. It is a scan of the bones of your body, done by x-rays to measure the density of your bones. The entire exam will take around 15 minutes.
9. Blood Sugar Test
A blood sugar test is not only done on people with diabetes, but can be done on pregnant people, people with metabolic disorders, and other medical issues. For people with any medical condition, it is important to keep blood sugar levels under control to prevent future complications.
A simple blood test can tell you if your blood sugar levels are high or low, and should be every day if you have diabetes or every few months if you have a different metabolic disorder, and your doctor will be the one to give you your blood sugar schedule. The test itself is simple and quick, and has minimal pain. Someone draws your blood, either fasting or not fasting, and will send the sample to the lab for evaluation. Depending on what your levels come back at, further blood work can be ordered.
10. Thyroid Function Test
Another blood test that should be scheduled in order to keep your family healthy is the thyroid function test. People with constant fatigue, weight issues, hormonal issues, fertility concerns, excessive hair growth, hair loss, brittle nails, severe dry skin, adult onset acne, brain fog, sleep abnormalities, and problems with feeling too hot or too cold, should have their thyroid function tested.
Your thyroid is in charge of all of your metabolic processes and if you have a family history of thyroid problems or are having any one of the above symptoms, it’s important to have your thyroid function checked. Having this simple blood test done can tell you if your thyroid is working properly or if you need medication to correct any imbalances.
Beware though, because not all thyroid tests are the same. Some doctors will only order certain thyroid functions to be tested, while other doctors will run the full gamut of thyroid function. It is in your best interest to find out if your doctor is ordering the right tests for a full and clear evaluation of your thyroid’s function. If they don’t or tell you it’s not necessary, then it is your job to tell them you want a full thyroid panel and to find a new doctor if yours refuses to do one.
There are a number of vaccines that are recommended for adults and children in order to keep everyone in the family healthy. Some of these vaccines include the flu vaccine, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and the shingles vaccine. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which immunizations you and your family need to stay up-to-date on, and which ones are okay to skip.
12. Skin Exam
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, so it’s important to perform regular self-exams and to see a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam. This is especially important if you have any moles or other skin abnormalities that could be precancerous.
Children and adults with fairer skin should have their skin regularly checked by a family member especially after spending lengthy times in the sun. Any beauty marks or moles with dark centers should be noted and examined by a dermatologist.
13. Dental Exam and Cleaning
It’s important to see a dentist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning and exam. This is the best way to prevent cavities, gum disease, and other dental problems. For people who suffer with more dental plaque than others, it will be healthier to get a deep clean once every 3 months.
During a dental exam, you should expect the dentist to clean your teeth and check for any problems. Annual x-rays are usually taken to make sure all is the same or to check for problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye. If a cavity or abscess is noticed during an exam, your dentist will likely explain to you your options and when you need to go back. The whole process of a dental exam is pretty quick and painless.
14. Eye Exam
Eye exams are important for detecting vision problems, glaucoma, and other eye diseases. As adults, be sure to see an ophthalmologist or optometrist at least once a year for a comprehensive eye exam. For children, it’s a good idea to have their vision checked with their pediatrician during their physical exam and again with an eye doctor to test for blurred vision or vision loss.
An eye exam is also very simple, quick, and painless. If the doctor feels it is necessary, they may also dilate your pupils to get a better look at the back of your eyes. It is not a good idea to drive directly after your pupils have been dilated as the solution can cause blurred vision. So, try to wait 10-15 minutes before getting behind the wheel.
15. Hearing Test
Hearing loss is common as we age, but can also occur from injury in a sport like wrestling, or from listening to extremely loud music. This is why it’s important to have your hearing checked at least once a year. This simple test can detect early signs of hearing loss, and can be done by a local ENT.
16. Mental Health Checkup
It’s important to pay attention to your mental health and to see a therapist or counselor if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed. Mental health checkups are just as important as physical health checkups, so be sure to schedule one if you feel like you need it.
This checkup is one of the more lengthier ones, and may require more frequent visits to create a positive state of mental health. Some sessions with a therapist or counselor can be as short as 15 minutes, while others can be as long as 60 minutes, and could involve the use of medication to assist with building mental stability.
These are just a few of the most important annual checkups to keep your family healthy. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which ones are right for you and your family. And remember, regular checkups are one of the best ways to prevent serious health problems down the road.