Do you need an annual health check-up?

While some people have annual health check-ups, not everyone needs a check-up every year.

If you’re young and healthy, you don’t always need to have an annual health check-up (which usually involves checking your health history, a physical examination and some tests) and going once every 2–3 years may be sufficient.

What is really important is to have a trusted healthcare provider you see regularly, or as needed, who makes sure you’re receiving the health care that’s best suited to your individual needs. If you have any concerns about your health, or you are reaching an age where it is advisable to get checked for long-term conditions (eg, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis) make sure you talk to a healthcare provider.

Image credit: Health Navigator NZ

When should I visit my healthcare provider?

See your health professional:

  • when you’re sick and need treatment
  • when you have symptoms that could mean you have an illness
  • to detect or prevent health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart problems 
  • to manage long-term (ongoing or chronic) conditions
  • to check the effects of a new medicine
  • to help with risk factors like obesity or smoking
  • to discuss any mental health issues or concerns
  • when you’re pregnant
  • for lifestyle issues (eg, contraception)
  • for regular screening checks like a smear test
  • for other reasons based on your individual history and needs.

Do I need an annual check-up?

Annual physicals usually don’t make you healthier. There have been many studies into the effects of annual check-ups. In general, they probably won’t help you stay well and live longer. And they don’t usually help you avoid hospital stays or keep you from dying of cancer or heart disease.

However, if you have a long-term condition that requires regular monitoring (eg, diabetes, asthma, pain, heart disease) you are likely to need to go, or at least talk to a healthcare provider, more often than annually. This is especially true if you are taking medicines for one or more conditions.

If you are at risk of developing a long-term condition because of your family history or lifestyle you should also be checked regularly. Finding and treating a problem early is likely to lead to a better outcome.  

Remember, everyone should get the the available vaccinations and screening tests at the recommended times and frequencies. These can vary depending on your age and ethnicity. Read more about screening and vaccination eligibility to see what is done when and what you and your whānau are eligible for free of charge.

Decide on a care plan with your healthcare provider

Your healthcare provider knows your health history best, so you can discuss with them the best time for any tests or examinations you may need and how often you should be seen.

You can ask them to help you (and your whānau) to make a care plan to help you manage your condition better and set goals for what you would like to achieve. It should focus on what is important to you. It will include the medicines you are taking, any lifestyle changes needed to maintain or improve your health (eg, healthy eating, stopping smoking, doing more exercise). It will also include how often you need to come back for a check-up on how you're doing and what to do when you get sick. You can keep a copy at home to guide you day-to-day. A good resource to start you off on thinking about your health and what you want to achieve is Te Kete Haerenga.

Patient portals

A patient portal is a website that you sign up for through your healthcare provider. It gives you computer (or phone) access to your own health records so you can track your test results, medicines, and reminders for screening and appointments. You can also contact your healthcare team to send messages and updates and order repeat prescriptions for your medicines. Read more about patient portals. 

Please talk to your GP or healthcare provider if you have any questions about whether you need an annual health check-up or not.

Reference

  1. Health checkups Choosing Wisely, NZ, 2014
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.