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General Medical Questions
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Question : I consider myself a healthy man. I haven’t seen a doctor in 4 years. Do I really need to go for regular check-ups?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 28, 2012
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A:

The “regular check-up” serves many purposes. During this visit, your doctor will want to:

  • Ask if you have any new symptoms or health concerns
  • Review your family medical history to see if you have a greater than average risk for certain diseases, such as diabetes
  • Review your medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) and use of herbs and supplements
  • Ask about health habits, including diet, exercise and use of tobacco and alcohol
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Administer vaccines or other preventive treatment

Also, this visit is an ideal opportunity for you to:

  • Ask any questions that you might have
  • Learn more ways to stay healthy

Does every adult need a routine physical each year? Not necessarily. Everyone should have their blood pressure checked every 1-2 years. Women need pelvic exams and Pap smears every 1 to 3 years starting at age 21. Otherwise, I suggest a routine doctor visit every 3-5 years between ages 18 and 40, and every 2 years from ages 40-50. Once adults reach age 50, I usually recommend that they see their doctor once per year.

But don’t wait for a routine visit if you have new symptoms. Call your doctor’s office for advice. Your doctor may not want you to wait for a regular check-up.

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