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A Guide to Getting an Annual Physical Exam

Mary Lucas, RN
Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 4/26/2020

When it comes to getting annual physical exams, men are seriously lagging. We get it, guys — you're not complainers. Unless something is bleeding or falling off, you figure you're in tip-top shape. 

But the truth is, we aren't getting any younger. Whether you're a 22-year-old, fresh-out-the-gate young buck, or a 65-year-old gentleman cooling it in the breeze down in Fort Lauderdale, the fact is, stuff happens. 

We get sick. Things go wrong. And just because you aren’t doubling over in pain doesn't mean you're in peak physical condition, and an annual physical exam is the quickest way to stop problems before they arise.

It should be a key part of your yearly checklist. Screenings don't just check for medical issues; they also promote an overall healthy lifestyle, can help assess your propensity for future illnesses (and thus, plan effectively to prevent them), get up-to-date on all your vaccinations and help build a rapport with your physician.

Still not convinced?

Why Aren't Men Getting Annual Physical Exams?

According to the 2016 results from the Cleveland Clinic in their annual health PSA campaign “MENtion It,” only three out of five men received an annual physical exam. 

The Cleveland Clinic study concluded that men simply don’t talk about their health issues enough. Only seven percent of men discussed their health with their friends, while much higher rates brought up their job, current events or sports.

On top of that, 53 percent of men claimed that they just don’t talk about their health altogether. Since there isn’t a culture of men openly talking about their health issues, they don’t get the encouragement from friends and family to go to a healthcare professional as often as they should.

This could very well be attributed to the self-perpetuating myth that men should be reserved about their personal lives. However, there could also be a more medical explanation to this phenomenon.

In an article for Slate, Jake Blumgart discusses how women are more likely to be screened for STIs and other health issues because of their annual gynecological visits. From their teenage years, women consult with a gynecologist.

Meanwhile, there’s no “equivalent process for men” that incentivizes a regular check up.  This results in 74 percent of women going to their healthcare provider every year — compared to just 57 percent of men. 

But there are still a variety diseases and conditions that men of all ages should screen for.

After the age of 18, it’s recommended that you get a regular medical exam. The problem is that many men don’t know what exactly they should be going to a healthcare professional for and what their health risks are.

Annual Physical Exam Guidelines by Age

Eighteen to Thirty-Nine

Theoretically, this time period is when you’re near peak physical fitness. But there are plenty of reasons why you should still go get a medical exam. This is the annual physical exam checklist healthcare provider should follow:

  • Blood Pressure Screening
  • Cholesterol Screening
  • Heart Disease Prevention
  • Diabetes Screening
  • Infectious Disease Screening
  • Eye Exam
  • Testicular Exam
  • Physical Exam
  • Dental Exam

Forty to Sixty-Four

At this point in life, you should still test for most of the same things as you dude in your twenties and thirties. However, there are a couple of new things you should start looking out for:

  • Prostate Cancer Screening
  • Lung Cancer Exam
  • Osteoporosis Screening
  • Immunizations
  • Colorectal Screening

Over Sixty-Five

When you enter your sixties and beyond, you should start screening for diseases and conditions that come with age. It’s recommended that in addition to everything you tested for through your twenties, thirties and forties, you also screen for:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
  • Hearing Test

Note: Of course, nothing suggested here is set in stone. Your annual physical exam checklist is going to be unique to you and determined by your physician. There is no rock-solid one-size-fits-all annual physical exam format. These are just recommendations from the National Institutes of Health — but it’s a pretty good place to start. 

If you feel you have a health issue that is more prominent in people older than you, you should still contact your physician.

How to Make Sure You’re in Tip-Top Shape

Seeing a healthcare professional shouldn’t be a last-minute decision. Check out these helpful tips on how to ensure that you stay on top of your health:

  • Stay on top of your health insurance. After you turn 26, you are no longer eligible to be part of your parents’ insurance plans. 

    With the American Health Care Act, you can find a plan that’s right for you. You could also find insurance from your employer or university. 

    Additionally, there are plenty of clinics — including Planned Parenthood — that screen for STIs and have flexible payment options if you do find yourself without insurance for a period of time.

  • Educate yourself. You can stay on top of your health by knowing the early symptoms and signs of irregularities.

    For example, you should ask your healthcare provider to teach you how to conduct testicular self-exams, check for the early signs of having an STI and other ways to maintain your health.

    Though there’s some scientifically verified information online, you should prioritize the information you get from your healthcare provider.

  • Know your risks. Ask your family members if your family has a history of inherited diseases or traits (like hair loss or obesity, various types of cancers, heart problems, etc.) that you should be concerned about.

    With this information, you can inform your healthcare provider, watch for worrisome signs and can possibly plan ahead.

  • Be open. The Cleveland Clinic survey discussed above showed that male friends generally don’t have a culture of talking to one another about their health.

    Being open to one another can help these problems feel scary and isolating. Who knows? Your friends could also have some helpful advice or healthcare provider recommendations. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. 

  • Have a schedule. You should set up frequent reminders on your phone or calendar for scheduling your annual exams. The ultimate goal is that going to see the healthcare provider is part of your routine.

Remember: Prevention is more effective than denial. Want to know more about what you can be doing to stay in tip-top shape? Head on over to the hims blog

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.