Mother with toddler speaking with doctor

Health screenings are a key way to protect yourself, and your family, from illness and disease. For most, an annual checkup is enough, but some people may need to see a doctor more than once a year, depending on their age, gender, and chronic health conditions. Your family history can also play a role in how closely your health should be monitored. Consider what your family's needs may be as you plan for the year ahead.

Babies & Children

The youngest members of your family may need to see a doctor more than once a year, depending on how old they are. Make sure you schedule time to take your little ones to see their physician.

Babies: For newborn babies, their first visit to the doctor usually happens 2 to 3 days after going home from the hospital. After this initial visit, the National Institutes of Health recommend that infants see a doctor at the age of 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and then every three months until your child is 18 months old. Your child should also have a checkup 6 months later, when they are 2 years old.

Children: Most healthy children, ages 2 to 18, only need to have a checkup once a year. If one of your children suffers from an ongoing medical condition, they may need to go more often. Children should also have routine vaccinations to protect them against serious illnesses.

Adults

As long as you don't have any major health conditions, the AMA recommends adults over 21 have a check-up every five years until age 40 - after that an annual exam is recommended. Tests and preventive screenings that your doctor may recommend change depending on your age and gender. For all adults, an annual checkup is a good time to discuss updating your vaccinations and getting a yearly flu shot. As you age, your doctor may advise you to have additional screenings to catch health issues before they become serious.

Your 30s and 40s: Adults in their 30s should start having their blood pressure checked every 2 years. Most women will have been getting a pap test, and potentially an HPV test, on a regular basis for a number of years. Women in their 30s should continue this preventative measure, and also let their doctor know if there is a history of ovarian or breast cancer in their family. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram every 1-2 years, depending on their risk factors. Past the age of 40, women may also want to consult their doctor about their risk of heart disease. For men, age 35 is the time to start having cholesterol levels checked.

Your 50s: Adults in their 50s may need to start being tested for colorectal cancer. There are a number of screening tools available, and your doctor may discuss the best option for you. The American Cancer Society recommends a woman have an annual mammogram after age 40. Women may also want to ask their doctor if they need a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis. Men in their 50s should continue to have their cholesterol levels checked, and ask their doctor if they should begin taking aspirin to lower their risk of heart attack. The NIH suggest men age 50 and older should discuss prostate cancer screening with their health care provider. Further, men 50 and over with risk factors for osteoporosis should discuss bone density screening with their doctor, according to the NIH.

Your 60s and Beyond: As you age, the list of recommended screenings grows. Keep in mind that health screenings can be key to catching conditions early, which allows for timely treatment. At age 60, all adults should talk to their doctor about whether they would benefit from taking aspirin to lower their heart attack risk. After age 65, adults need to have their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked yearly, and be screened for colorectal cancer. For women, it is important to continue to have a mammogram every 2 years, and to start having bone density tests.

HealthAhead Hint: Make Your Health a Priority

While it's easy to know if you are feeling sick, many medical problems can sneak up on you. Even when you feel well, it's important to have an annual checkup to help ensure you're healthy from top to bottom. When you attend your appointment, it can be helpful to know your family history and to have an awareness of what tests your doctor may recommend. Remember that preventative screenings can be crucial to catching serious medical conditions early. Your decision to take care of your health may benefit you--and your family--for years to come.