Look, we get it — it can be totally tempting to skip an annual medical appointment. After all, who even really needs a doctor anymore, when all you have to do is Google your symptoms or run to an urgent care anytime you get sick? According to a national poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of millennials surveyed didn’t have a primary care doctor. “While older generations placed tremendous value on the doctor-patient relationship, millennials have the mindset of ‘get in, get out, get cured,’” says Niket Sonpal, MD, a New York City internist and gastroenterologist. But here’s the thing: Preventative health care visits are super important for people of all ages. Ahead, the five annual health exams you should never skip. Go ahead and lock them in your calendar now.
Annual exams and immunizations
The exact vaccines you need at any given point depend solely on your medical history — and the only way of figuring that out is by having an annual check-up. Not to mention that this is an ideal time for a blood pressure screening, another essential test. High blood pressure is linked to diabetes, which is becoming a growing problem for young people, notes Dr. Sonpal. During this appointment, also ask your doctor about any recurring immunizations, such as the Flu Shot or Tdap. And — insert Captain Obvious comment here — but this is also the perfect time to go through any other potential health concerns, physical or mental, for that matter.
All that time you spend looking at your phone or on your computer – you know, like right now? Yeah, that’s not doing anything great for your eyes. Staring at screens close-up for prolonged periods of time can lead to nearsightedness and headaches. (There’s also the issue of potentially damaging blue light.) “A lot of millennials are popping ibuprofen for headaches associated with eye strain. This then leads to stomach issues,” cautions Dr. Sonpal. It’s worth visiting the eye doctor annually, even if you think your eyesight is just fine.
IBS and digestive screenings
Not to play the alarmist role, but a stomach ache isn’t always just a stomach ache. Gut health is important for overall health. But more importantly, you don’t want to simply self-treat stomach issues for long stretches, just in case it is something more serious, says Dr. Sonpal. Case in point: According to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, from the mid 1980s to 2013, the incidences of colon cancer have been rising fastest for people between the ages of 20 to 29. Dr. Sonpal’s advice: If you’re experiencing chronic stomach pain, see a doctor.
If you’re having sex — and even more so if you’re not in a monogamous relationship — STD screening is paramount. There’s legit no excuse for not doing it, because a new host of at-home testing kits and apps have made it easier than ever to do in the privacy of your own home. Planned Parenthood is another good resource, and many of their centers even offer STD testing for free.
Skin cancer checks
Here’s some food for thought: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. ever year than all other cancers combined. Plus, this is one of the cancers where early detection can truly mean the difference between life and death. Seeing a dermatologist for a yearly full body skin check is painless and takes 20 minutes, tops, points out Dr. Sonpal. Our favorite tip? Plan yours around an important yearly event, like your birthday, or favorite holiday so that you never forget to book it.