“The right preventive care at every stage of life helps all Americans stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, keep diseases they already have from becoming worse or debilitating, lead productive lives, and reduce costs.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Largely preventable chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, are responsible for 70 percent of American deaths each year, reports the CDC. This need not be the case. The Affordable Care Act requires private health plans to cover certain preventive services for Americans of all ages without imposing any cost sharing fees such as deductibles or copayments.
Developing and nurturing a close partnership with your family physician ensures that you stay on track with annual wellness exams that include age-appropriate immunizations and screenings. This is the key to preventing disease and improving health throughout every age and stage of life. Here’s an overview of some of the most important screenings that you can expect at each checkup.
Newborns and Infants
Your baby will receive a newborn blood screen before leaving the hospital. If you have a home birth, it’s important to have your baby checked at a facility within a few days of birth. Each state has its own screening requirements, but tests typically look for sickle cell disease and other hemoglobin disorders, PKU, and hormonal conditions such as hypothyroidism. Your baby will probably be screened for hearing loss while still in the hospital, but the CDC recommends testing no later than 1 month of age.
Infant wellness checkups occur at ages 2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, and 15 months. Your pediatrician will conduct tests to assess your child’s physical and emotional development and vaccinate them against preventable diseases.
Toddlers and Children
Well-child visits occur at 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years. Your pediatrician will track your child’s growth and discuss age-appropriate milestones, addressing any concerns you might have about your child’s developmental progress. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports, “regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatrician, parent and child…This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental, and social health of a child.”
Experts recommend screening all children at 9 months old for delays in basic skills, with Autism Spectrum Disorder checkups at 18 months and 24 months. Early detection and intensive treatment before age 3 can change the underlying brain development and activity and help most children who show signs of ASD.
Regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatrician, parent and child…This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental, and social health of a child.
regular visits create strong, trustworthy relationships among pediatrician, parent and child…This team approach helps develop optimal physical, mental, and social health of a child.
“Virtually all U.S. children are at risk for lead poisoning,” according to the CDC, with those under age 6 especially vulnerable. Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development and is fatal at very high levels. Children most commonly come in contact with lead in older buildings where lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust are found, reports Mayo Clinic.
Some areas have specific lead testing recommendations, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your child be tested for lead levels at ages 1 and 2 through a simple blood test. Children with especially high risks should be screened at 6 months of age.
It’s never to early to begin blood pressure screenings, so children as young as 3 may receive checks during annual visits.
Adolescents and Teens
Annual wellness exams help your growing child move through the teen years with good health habits and an empowered sense of responsibility for her or his well-being. Many pediatricians continue to see patients until early adulthood, but some children switch to a family practitioner during their teens.
Wellness visits may include:
• Routine examination of heart, lungs, skin, internal organs, and reflexes
• Vision and hearing screening
• Urine tests
• Scoliosis checks (curvature of the spine)
• Ensuring immunizations are up to date, especially for college-bound teens
Your doctor may discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle habits and assess your child’s vulnerability for risky behaviors such as smoking and drug and alcohol use. Sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases may be discussed, and your physician will look for signs of emotional or psychological distress and screen for eating disorders.
The CDC recommends that all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 be vaccinated for HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection. Some girls have their first appointment with a gynecologist when they begin puberty, usually between ages 13 to 15. Young men will be checked for testicular cancer and hernias.
Sports injuries are common during these years, with more than 38 million U.S. children participating in organized sports every year, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. At least 2.6 million children age 19 and younger seek emergency room treatment due to sports- or recreation-related injuries. You might enlist the help of an orthopedic physician if you have an especially athletic child.
A young woman may have her first pelvic exam around age 18 if she is sexually active. Young men will undergo testicular exams to detect masses and swollen veins. Sexually active women receive an annual chlamydia test, and everyone should have at least one HIV test during adulthood.
A woman’s first pap test is usually performed when she is 21. This screening continues throughout her life until age 65 to help prevent cervical cancer.
Annual exams for young adults include blood pressure and vision tests, calculation of body mass index, and screening for emotional and psychological conditions including depression and anxiety.
Midlife is an especially important time for screening tests that can identify early warning signs of serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Stay current on your well-care visits to catch health problems while they are still treatable. If you have special risk factors like a family history of a disease, your doctor may recommend additional or more frequent screenings. Some of the most important include:
• Cholesterol check every 5 years, beginning at age 45
• Blood pressure check every 2 years
• Fasting plasma glucose test every three years beginning at age 45; earlier if you’re overweight or have a high risk of diabetes
• Eye examinations every two to four years until age 54 and then every one to three years after that. Cataracts often begin in the 40s or 50s.
Women should receive a:
• Pap test every three years through age 29. Starting at age 30, every five years with a test that includes HPV screening.
• Mammogram every year from ages 45 to 54. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every two years, or can continue yearly screening, advises the American Cancer Society.
Adults 50 and Older
During the prime of your life, you’ll continue to have your blood pressure checked every two years until age 65, and yearly thereafter. Untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension, can damage your heart, your kidneys, your brain, and your eyes.
Vision and hearing checks continue every year to prevent age-related conditions like glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness.
Women aged 65 and older should have a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis, and men over 50 should discuss prostate cancer screenings.
Everyone should have their first colon cancer screening at age 50. Your doctor might recommend a:
• Fecal occult test
• Barium enema with X-ray
• Sigmoidoscopy (examination of the rectum and lower colon)
• Colonoscopy (examination of the entire colon)
Be vigilant about checking your skin monthly for any unusual spots or moles, and have your dermatologist give your entire body the once-over annually. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and it’s also one of the most preventable.
People over age 50 should get a flu shot every year, advises WebMD, and after age 60 you should be vaccinated against the herpes virus that causes shingles.
Are you ready to team up with a Family Physician who is passionate about preventive medicine? One who can support your family’s wellness through all cycles of life? Revere Health Family Medicine providers are available at 14 locations in Utah to handle a variety of medical needs for patients of all ages and genders. Our compassionate, patient-centered family medicine providers are trained in a broad range of disciplines including internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and geriatrics.
About Dr. Brandon Hall, MD
I chose to specialize in family medicine because of the great need for more family medicine physicians. Family practice also allows me to get to know my patients better than many other specialties. There is nothing on the planet as interesting as a human being, and my profession allows me to interact with people on a level that few other jobs would.