Many people in their 20s feel good physically and don't visit a doctor until they feel it's absolutely necessary.
But, a routine annual physical examination often can prevent minor medical issues from turning into serious problems as you age.
Dr. Genevieve Brauning of Novant Health SouthPark Family Physicians recommends 10 general preventive screenings and tests to have done during your 20s. All of the tests can be completed during your annual physical.
“These are the types of things that fall through the cracks if you skip your annual physical and only see the doctor when you are sick,” Brauning said. “Many young patients assume they are healthy because they feel perfectly fine. A physical is a great chance to screen for things that can become major problems if we don’t address them early on.”
Your physical should only take about 30 minutes and should be covered 100 percent by your health insurance as a preventive service, Brauning said.
The top 10 screenings and tests you should have in your 20s:
1. Alcohol misuse screening
You'll fill out a questionnaire (How much do you drink? How often?) to determine if you're misusing alcohol. If your answers raise concerns, your doctor will follow up with questions to determine if your alcohol usage suggests a dependence or if it might put you at risk of damaging your organs long-term, Brauning said. Your doctor can also give you personalized advice about how much alcohol is safe for you.
2. Blood pressure screening
Your doctor will measure blood pressure with a cuff. The result is two numbers: top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic). For a healthy person, a normal range is under 135 on the top and under 85 on the bottom. If you have other medical problems or diseases in your family, your blood pressure goal may be lower than 135/85. If you are at risk for developing high blood pressure, your doctor can recommend diet and exercise plans to reduce your risk.
3. Breast cancer risk assessment
You'll answer questions about your family history of cancers. If there is an extensive history of cancers, your doctor will gather information about the type, the age and relationship of that person to you. An additional step could be genetic testing for the BRCA mutation, which increases the risk of breast cancer.
4. Cervical cancer screening
Women are screened with a Pap test, which looks for any abnormal cells on the cervix, as well as for HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. Women should have their first Pap test at age 21.
5. Screening for sexually-transmitted infections
If you’re sexually active, it’s recommended that you get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia (both can be tested through urine) and syphilis (tested through blood).
6. HIV screening
Everyone should be tested for HIV (through a blood test) regardless of sexual activity or lifestyle. HIV can be transmitted through body fluids like blood, semen and breast milk, or by sharing needles and blood transfusions.
7. Depression screening
You'll answer a questionnaire to determine if you’re depressed or at risk for suicide. Your doctor will assess your situation and, if necessary, recommend treatment that could include counseling and/or medication.
8. Diabetes screening
The sugar levels in your blood are determined through a blood test. If the levels indicate diabetes, medication is the next step. If the levels indicate you're trending toward diabetes, your doctor may recommend lifestyle counseling and seeing a nutritionist. Normal blood sugar levels after fasting for this test are under 100.
9. Obesity screening
Your weight is the determining factor. If you’re overweight, your doctor will talk to you about diet and exercise, and perhaps a referral to a dietitian.
10. Tobacco use
You'll answer questions about your current and past tobacco/nicotine use. If you are using, your doctor will encourage you to quit and discuss developing a plan on how to, and possible medications to increase your chance of quitting.
Brauning also recommends a general dental and vision exam for everyone in their 20s. And remain diligent about your annual physical exam.
“It’s preventing things from becoming a problem,” Brauning said. “You might not feel something that takes you to a doctor, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have things that need to be addressed.”
Find a Novant Health primary care physician who can help with your everyday health concerns and protect your health with regular checkups, immunizations, health screenings, and treatments for illness and injuries.