Lab work, self-examinations, and annual physicals are not the first things most people think of when creating to-do lists in their 20s and 30s.
But maybe they should be.
Regular checkups and health screenings are among the best ways to monitor your health and catch potential issues before they become major problems. Even if you feel fine today, getting these basic screenings and tests could set an invaluable baseline for your health in later years.
Screenings everyone should have
Your 20s and 30s are the ideal time to choose a primary care physician. Building a relationship with a doctor you trust is an effective way to safeguard your health in the coming years.
- Annual physical exams offer a detailed overview of your health and provide clues to any underlying, often silent, issues you may not know exist.
- Monitor your weight, height, and body mass index (BMI) at each appointment. Discuss weight-loss options with your doctor if your BMI is 30 or higher to reduce your risk of serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, or diabetes.
- Your doctor may ask about your alcohol and drug use, safety practices, depression, diet, and activity level to help determine the frequency and duration of any at-risk behaviors you may have and suggest additional resources if needed.
Blood pressure - know your numbers
Have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years to monitor your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- If your top number (systolic) is between 120 and 139, or the bottom (diastolic) is between 80 and 89, get your blood pressure checked annually.
- You may need more frequent monitoring if you have a chronic health condition like heart disease, diabetes, or kidney problems.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
If you are sexually active, STI screening is one of the best ways to protect you and your partner(s).
- All adolescents and adults age 15 to 65 years old should be tested at least once for HIV. Younger adolescents and older adults at increased risk for infection should also be tested. If you are at higher risk, you need to get tested at least once a year for maximum protection.
- If you are a sexually active woman younger than 25, or a woman over 25 with new or multiple sex partners, you should be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year.
- If you are a sexually active gay or bisexual man, you should get tested at least once a year for HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea. If you have new or multiple sex partners, you should be tested more frequently.
- If you ever have unsafe sex or share injection drug equipment, you should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Regularly examine your skin for signs of cancer – factors like a fair complexion, regular exposure to the sun, previous skin cancer, or family history increase your risk.
- Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factor to determine how often you should conduct skin self-examinations.
- Make a note of any moles, freckles, blemishes, or other marks on your skin’s surface and become familiar with their shape, size, and pattern. Notify your doctor if you discover any changes during your regular self-exams.
Screenings for women
Pap smear/Cervical cancer screening
Regular visits with your OBGYN are an important component of protecting your reproductive health and fertility. Find an OBGYN during early adulthood and defend your health for the years that follow.
- Cervical cancer screenings are an integral part of a women’s regular health care as she reaches her 20s and 30s. If you are at least 21, you should begin cervical cancer testing.
- If you’re between 21 and 29 years old, you should have a Pap test done every three years.
- If you're 30 or older, you should have a Pap test and a test for human papillomavirus, or HPV, done every five years.
- If your health history includes HIV infection, an organ transplant, or other health issues, your doctor can help you determine the screening schedule that’s best for you.
By the time you’re 25, you should talk to your doctor about your individual risk for breast cancer and whether testing is needed to determine any potential threats to your health.
- Regular breast self-examinations are a good way to become familiar with your breasts and monitor any changes that occur. Report any differences or concerns to your doctor for timely follow up and maximum protection.
- If you have a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer, genetic testing can help you determine if you carry the BRCA gene, which increases the likelihood of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons, to determine if BRCA screening deserves a spot on your healthcare schedule.
Screening during pregnancy
If you have an STI during pregnancy, it can have dangerous health consequences for you and your infant. Have an open and honest conversation with your healthcare provider to determine what testing you need.
- If you are pregnant, you should be screened for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B early in your pregnancy.
- If you are at-risk, you should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- You should repeat your testing as often as needed during your pregnancy to protect the health of you and your baby.
It’s safe to get care
Concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) should not keep you from staying up-to-date on the screenings and medical tests you need to monitor and maintain your health. We are taking extra precautions to ensure both you and our staff are protected. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for details on all the ways we’re working to keep you safe so you can be confident in getting the care you need.
Are you looking for a primary care physician to help manage your care and address any issues that arise over the years? Visit our online physician directory to find a primary care doctor and schedule an appointment today. Now is the time to start building your personal healthcare team.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations
- American Heart Association Heart Health Screenings
- Centers for Disease Control STD Resources
- Centers for Disease Control STD Screening Information
- National Institutes of Health: Health screenings for women ages 18 to 39
- National Institutes of Health: Health screenings for men ages 18 to 49
- Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines
- CDC HIV Resource Center
- American Cancer Society Testicular Cancer Resource Center
- National Institutes of Health: Breast Self-Exam
- National Cancer Institute BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing
- National Cancer Institute: Skin Cancer Screening
- American Cancer Society: How to Do a Skin Self-exam