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What to ask your doctor at every age
Key questions for your primary care physician, from your 20s through your 60s and beyond.
Sure, Haven Life offers no-medical-exam life insurance, but that doesn’t mean you should never get a medical exam. In fact, getting one regularly is a good way to avoid more serious visits to the doctor.
Or, to put it another way, an apple a day will not keep the doctor away — the only thing that will keep the doctor away is seeing the doctor. (Well, that plus a healthy lifestyle and a bit of luck). And as you might already know, in general, the healthier you are, the lower your life insurance premium will probably be.
Anyway, when you do see the doctor, you’ll get a lot more out of it if you ask the right questions about your health, including requesting help to stay on top of the right things. To find out what those things are, we asked Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, a urologist at Orlando Health, for some tips, and we also combed through information from the CDC.
“These are general recommendations, and an individual’s specific health needs may vary based on their personal and family medical history,” Dr. Brahmbhatt says. “It’s important to have open and honest conversations with your healthcare provider about any concerns or questions you may have, and to follow their recommendations for preventative care and screenings.”
And to help you have those open and honest conversations about your health care, here are some topics that will be relevant at different ages. (If you’re not sure where to start with health insurance, the linked article offers some things to consider.)
In this article:
At all ages:
Whichever age bracket you fall into, there are certain things you should be doing regularly:
Have an annual check-up and physical with your primary care physician. If you own a car, you probably have someone look at it once a year; following the same plan for your body is the least you can do.
Visit the dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and a check-up. If you have any problems, this will mean they’re identified and dealt with before they become big problems. If you have no problems, a professional cleaning every 6 months will help keep it that way.
And do a vision check. This is partially so you can make sure you’re seeing as well as possible, but it’s also to look for any medical problems that you might have with your eyes. (These are not necessarily easy for a non-professional to notice.)
Do a self-check of your breast to look for breast cancer. Here’s how to do that, in case you are unsure.
Do a self-check for testicular cancer. Here’s how,
In your 20s:
Find a good primary care physician. Yes, you are (probably) in great health right now (which makes it a good time to get life insurance, by the way), with a superhuman capacity to bounce back from health problems, but that will not last forever (sorry). So, much like you might use your 20s to see what kind of romantic partner suits you, spend some time now finding doctors you like, who you could imagine going to for many years to come.
While you’re with those healthcare professionals:
- Do a baseline check-up and screenings for sexually transmitted infections, blood pressure, and cholesterol, including blood tests, and pay attention to the test results.
- Discuss any family history of chronic diseases. These can include diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Talk about lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, and their potential impact on long-term health.
- Ask about what immunizations you should have (including HPV), and get in the habit of having an annual flu shot. Flu in your 20s is miserable; flu when you’re older can be deadly. Get in the habit now.
All of this sets you up well for the decades to come.
- The CDC recommends that women get HPV and Pap tests at 21 years old and do them regularly going forward. (This can help spot or prevent cervical cancer). If your results are fine, you may not need another one for several years. Your doctor will tell you if this is the case.
- If you are using birth control (or want to), it’s worth having a frank, open-ended conversation with your OB-GYN about the available options and their pros and cons. Birth control is an ever-evolving field, so you may have choices available that you’re unaware of. Also, your 20s is a good time to find an OB-GYN you like and develop a relationship with them: You may need them more as you get older.
In your 30s:
The changes during your 30s are not huge, though as you reach the middle of this decade you may notice that hangovers are more punishing than they used to be. (And alas, there is no “cure” for that.) On average, more people are waiting longer to have kids, too, and that might also change the kind of medical care you’ll need.
Here are some other things you can attend to.
- Have regular check-ups and screenings determined by your primary care provider based on family and social history (which you started discussing with your doctor in your 20s). If you have a family history of cancer, for example, you might start screening for it in your 30s.
- Keep your medical records organized. You may move states, even countries; this will go more smoothly with well-organized records.
- Consider your mental health. Life can become more challenging in your 30s (career; relationships; kids; aging family members), so it’s worth checking in with yourself about depression and/or anxiety disorder, so that you and your doctor can address concerns before they become big problems. Start here and ask your primary care doctor for recommendations if you think you’d benefit (as many people do) from seeing a specialist.
- If you’re thinking of having children, ask what you can do to optimize your fertility.
- Ask if any of the immunizations you got in your 20s (or before) need to be renewed.
In your 40s:
Family history becomes more relevant in your 40s, so be sure your family physician knows yours (especially if the doctor you have now is new to you or new-ish). Men with family histories of colon or prostate cancer and women with histories of breast cancer should ask their doctors if they should start screening for those early.
- Discuss any changes in health status and any new symptoms or concerns with your primary care doctor. Remember that he or she is not psychic, and that to get the most out of your doctor you have to be candid and provide them as much information as possible.
- Start doing annual cholesterol and skin checks.
- If your BMI is higher than 25 (or 23 if you’re of Asian descent), consider getting your blood glucose checked, since diabetes is common, and can impact people of various weights and builds.
- If you haven’t been getting your vision checked (hey, we did mention this), make sure you’re diligent about it from here going forwards. People’s vision often changes in their 40s, and not in a good way.
- The CDC recommends that you start colorectal screening at 45. (No, it’s not fun — but we promise it’s more fun than cancer.)
- Discuss menopause, its potential impact on health and what to expect from it in general. Menopause is arguably an under-discussed topic until a person is experiencing it. But there’s no reason not to be prepared and informed ahead of time — your doctors will be happy to discuss this and to prepare you.
- Ask your doctor about mammograms. In recent years there has been some debate over whether women should start having them in their 40s or 50s. Talk to your doctor about what makes sense for you, considering your health and family history.
In your 50s:
This is a time when it’s really important to tell your doctor if anything has changed with your health, or if you’re feeling anything new or different, as your risk of a wide variety of serious illnesses increases after 50.
- Continue the regular check-ups and screenings you were already doing, and make sure these include colon cancer screenings and prostate cancer screenings for men and mammograms for women.
- Discuss bone health and the potential need for osteoporosis screenings.
- Consider getting your hearing checked.
- Get the shingles vaccine. It’s recommended for those 50 and over, it doesn’t hurt, and you really do not want to get shingles.
- Keep monitoring any chronic conditions you’ve developed, and check in on any prescribed medication or side effects.
- How is your libido? If it has diminished (and if you feel fatigued) you might want your doctor to check your testosterone and your levels of nutrients like magnesium and folate.
- Keep an eye on your skin; the risk of melanoma for men increases from the mid-50s onwards.
- After menopause, bone density can change. Ask your doctor if you should start bone density testing.
In your 60s and beyond:
As an older adult, keep up with your screenings at your family doctor, try to keep fit. Oh, and think about death a little (see below).
- Discuss any potential (or actual) cognitive or memory changes with your doctor, and get a dementia screening if you’re high risk.
- Keep an eye on your skin: the risk of melanoma increases with age.
- Review your vaccination status. In particular, are you up to date with flu and shingles vaccines? The vast majority of people killed by flu are over 65; and if you get shingles when you’re older it can be awfully serious and seriously awful.
- If you are or were a smoker, some time around the age of 65 ask your doctor if you should have an abdominal aneurysm exam.
- Discuss end of life with your doctor (and family): Do you want a DNR? Should you have a living will, and what should be in it? Do you have a plan for long term care? These are decisions to make while you’re healthy, so get to them now.
You may think you don’t have time to go see the doctor, especially if you’re feeling fine, but what you really don’t have time for is being seriously ill or slowly falling apart. We suggest you spend a little time dealing with your health regularly to avoid spending a lot of time on it down the road.
About Michael DavisRead more by Michael Davis
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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