How often you should get a physical depends very much on your age, your health status, and of course, for many people, on their insurance coverage or ability to pay for one. A strictly medical standpoint may differ from your insurance coverage, which may set allowable time intervals between physicals. Most insurance companies will cover a physical every few years for young adults, and more often as people age. They’ll also usually conform to a person having certain tests and screening as needed or recommended by physicians.
During the first year of life, physicals or check-ups are required often, even for babies that are healthy. Once a child reaches the age of one, and provided the child is healthy, most doctors and pediatricians recommend a child get a physical once a year until age 18. Since children continue to grow and change, the need for health assessments and immunizations and booster shots mean kids should get a check up yearly.
Young women should furthermore have an annual gynecological exam once yearly after they become sexually active, or starting at the age of 21, whichever comes first. Sometimes a general practitioner can provide both a yearly physical and this exam so people don’t have to go to two check-ups in a year. For women and men in their 20s, there are variations on recommendations.
Many doctors recommend you get a physical every three years or so, and others suggest you need two physicals in your 20s. Some doctors advocate that while you don’t need a physical each year, you should still have your blood pressure checked once a year, and possibly have your blood cholesterol levels evaluated every two years. Naturally if you are at risk for medical conditions, and/or have an illness or a family history of early onset illnesses, you may want to get check ups more frequently.
As people reach the ages between 40-65, it may be more important to have a physical every two years, or more often if you are at risk for developing other medical conditions. At 50 men should begin having yearly rectal exams to assess risk for prostate and colorectal cancer. Women should begin having mammograms yearly at the age of 40. People 65 and older should ideally get a physical once yearly to continue to assess for development of diseases and overall health.
Naturally, you may need full check-ups more often if your risks are high for disease development. A person who is morbidly obese might require a physical yearly, and women at risk for early onset breast cancer might begin having mammograms several years before turning 40. You also shouldn’t hesitate to see your doctor in between physicals for anything health-related that worries or concerns you. The sudden appearance of a skin growth or mole for instance, shouldn’t wait a year or two until your physical, but should be analyzed immediately.