Young People Need Regular Health Visits Too
Many parents are happy to take a break from the seemingly endless numbers of pediatrician visits for infants, toddlers with ear aches, shots and young kids with fevers. Parents (and their kids) may stop going to the doctors as long as everyone is feeling fine.
Here's a question for you though, if you are a healthy young person, do you still need to see a doctor regularly for a checkup? Checkups can also be called routine physicals or health maintenance visits.
The answer is yes, and here is why.
Even if you don't have any major illnesses, injuries, or questions for your doctor, you can learn a lot about how to take care of yourself and how to stay healthy. Preventive Services are small and easy steps you can take now, that may help you from getting sick later on. You might want to think of your body as a well-oiled machine that you depend on each and every day. We take our bikes or our cars for service regularly, right? How many of us ignore possible signs that our smartphone isn't working until it crashes? That's why it is important that you run those annoying software updates- just to keep your phone in good working order. Your body needs a regular software update too.
Recommended Preventive Services for Young Adults
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that adolescents have yearly doctor's visits. These regular visits can help doctors pick up on things that could lead to disease or injury in the future. These are called risk factors. Some of the risk factors in young adults that your provider might screen for are:
- High blood pressure (a painless measure of how hard or easy it is for your heart to pump blood around your body)
- High cholesterol (a blood test to measure a type of fat found in your blood)
When you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure you may not have any symptoms. Over time, if not at healthy levels, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and stroke as you get older. Sometimes changing the way that you eat, becoming more active, and losing weight can help to lower blood pressure and high cholesterol without even having to take medication. Learning these healthy habits at a younger age will make it easier to follow a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life, preventing more health problems later on.
- Risk behaviors. Risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol use, how often you get sunburns, and sexual behaviors are all things that doctors may ask about at these visits. Sometimes risky behaviors can lead to problems such as cancer in the long run, and can lead to illness and injury in the shorter term. The doctor's office can be a safe space for youth to practice asking sometimes awkward or sensitive questions.
- Depression and mental health. Life as a young adult can be confusing, stressful, and challenging. Sometimes it is hard to find someone to talk to or to ask questions. A doctor's office is a safe space where you may find some ways to feel better and to get through tough times. We know that people who live with depression for most of their life have an increased risk for other chronic (long term) diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Even if your are not in crisis when you see your doctor, getting to know your doctor and feeling comfortable around them will make it easier for you to reach out for help if you need it someday.
- Family history. Some diseases can be passed down from one generation to another and knowing ahead of time that certain conditions or diseases run in your family may help your doctor to take better care of you. It is a good idea to regularly talk with family members about any new health conditions and to update what your doctor's office has in your medical record. The Centers for Disease Control offers several tools and questions to help you review your family medical history.
- Vaccination history. Many summer camps, organized sports programs and employers require up-to-date vaccinations(shots, immunizations). Vaccine recommendations frequently change and some young adults will require additional shots (boosters) to make sure they are protected. By seeing a doctor regularly, you can make sure you all set before you start on a new adventure. You can check out the recommended vaccination schedule for kids ages 7-18 years old here.
Young people may not need to have a complete physical exam every year. But having an appointment once a year to at the very least review of the types of health risks described above can help you stay healthy as you get older.
For more information, check out the following links:
- US Preventive Services Task Force - http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/recommendations and then follow the link to the ePSS app which provides recommendations by age and gender.
- National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center (NAHIC) - http://nahic.ucsf.edu/yaguidelines/
If you would like more information on this, or any other health-related topic, the Health Educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.