Primary care providers (PCPs) are generalists who can diagnose, treat and answer questions about a multitude of health conditions, including high blood pressure, sinus infections, thyroid disorders and more. Your PCP can refer you to specialists for anything that needs further investigation or that is out of their realm of expertise. Visiting your PCP can take a lot of guesswork out of figuring out who you need to see about a health concern.
However, if you feel healthy and don’t have any specific reason to go to the doctor, how often should you see your PCP? The answer depends on your age and your overall health.
With Age Comes Wisdom (and More Doctor Appointments)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of times seniors age 65 and over go to the doctor each year is more than double the number for adults ages 18–44. But are all these appointments necessary?
Experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that people over age 65 have a physical exam at least once per year. If you have concerns about new symptoms or need medications checked or adjusted, you may need to see your PCP more often.
Avoiding a Mid-life Crisis
People between the ages of 40–64 are also urged to visit their PCP once per year for a physical, while anyone between the ages of 18–39 should make an appointment at least once every two years for men, and once every 1-2 years for women. Visits should be more frequent if you have a condition that needs to be monitored, such as diabetes, or if you have specific concerns you’d like to discuss.
What Happens at Your Regular Checkup?
At this visit, your PCP will:
- Check your height, weight, body mass index and blood pressure
- Administer any necessary immunizations
- Talk to you about your general health and discuss any concerns you have
- Perform or order preventive health screenings you are due for based on your age
Seeing your PCP regularly also gives you a chance to get to know your provider and for them to become familiar with you and your health history. This can be very helpful—and reduce stress—in the event of a new health condition developing since your PCP will already be familiar with your health history.