Going to the doctor is never fun for anyone, especially when you’re in your 20s and feeling alive and fantastic. But one visit a year could mean the difference between being happy and healthy or miserable and sickly a few years down the road.
Growing up, you probably relied on your parents to make you a doctor’s appointment or else they would just load you up in the car and take you themselves. You may have also played a sport that required a yearly physical, which meant you were for sure going to see the doc at least once a year.
Now that you’re out of high school, not playing sports, and don’t have mom and dad around to take you to your annual visit anymore, it may be incredibly easy to just not go to the doctor unless you are sick. But that’s not the best or smartest choice, especially in your 20s.
Think of it this way: if you have a car, do you only take it to the mechanic when there is an issue? The answer should be no. You should be checking the tire pressure often, rotating the tires, and changing the oil every 5,000 – 10,000 miles, among other preventative measures, to try and keep your car from going to mechanic because going to the mechanic when there is an issue is expensive and time consuming. If you can do small things throughout the year, or even once a year, to ensure you don’t have to go the mechanic, it would be the reasonable thing to do.
Your body is similar. If you go to the doctor at least once a year every year, you are using preventative maintenance to keep bad diseases and maladies from occurring, which could save a lot of time and money down the road. You could also catch a potential problem in the early stages and fix it before it gets worse.
“But if I go to the doctor, I might be sick.”
Yes, true. But even if you don’t go to the doctor, you’ll still be sick, you just won’t know it. It’s scary coming face to face with a disease, especially the big ones like cancer or an STD. But it’s important to diagnose those sooner rather than later so you can be treated before it spreads to other parts of your body or other people. It’s important to remember that a lot of diagnoses for major diseases like HIV are no longer a death sentence. There are effective treatment plans that allow you to live a happy healthy and fairly normal life.
Here’s the complete breakdown of preventative measures you should take in your late teens to early 20s:
- Monthly: testicular self-exam and then report to your doctor if you find any abnormal bumps or lumps
- Every 6 months: dental exam
- Yearly: physical exam, flu shot, STD test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis (test more frequently if you are having unprotected sex, or believe you have an STD)
- Every 2 years: eye exam
- Every 5 years: cholesterol test
- Every 10 years: tetanus-diptheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine
- Other important vaccines to get:
- Varicella (aka Chicken Pox) vaccine if you never had chickenpox as a child
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to prevent genital warts, anal cancer, and the spread of HPV to sexual partners