Benefits of Annual Checkups in Your 50s and Older

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 10, 2022
3 min read

Checkups and preventive screenings are a good idea at any age, but especially as you get older.

Along with wisdom, age brings greater chances of health problems. You're more likely to get diseases like diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, and arthritis as the years pass.

Some of these conditions don't show symptoms until they've gotten worse. An annual checkup gives your doctor a chance to find them early, when they can be more easily treated and sometimes cured.

During a checkup, your doctor can find problems that might make you more likely to get sick in the future. A check of your family health history could flag risks for inherited conditions like cancer or diabetes, so you can get the screenings you need to catch them early.

Your doctor will also ask about your diet, fitness, sleep, and stress habits. If you're not following guidelines in these areas, you'll get advice on how to improve. And if you smoke or drink too much, your doctor can offer tips on how to quit.

Your doctor is more likely to find a health problem than you could on your own. Doctors are trained to know what symptoms mean. They can refer you for tests, send you to the right specialist, or recommend treatments.

Conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes often don't cause symptoms early on. Checks of your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels can help your doctor spot the signs of these diseases early. Many diseases are easiest to treat when they're caught in their early stages. 

Your doctor will go over your health history at each year's visit. That should include a check of whether you're on track with screening tests like colonoscopy or mammograms. The doctor will also let you know which vaccines you need, like shots for the flu, pneumonia, or shingles.

Long-term conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and asthma need day-to-day care. Your doctor will check in with you at each visit to make sure you have these diseases under good control. If not, the doctor can recommend changes to your diet or medication.

Your doctor is an expert in health. Every time you visit, you can learn something new about your own health or disease risks.

Checkups also give you a chance to ask about health information you've seen on the news or online. Getting answers to your questions can ease any worries or fears you might have.

Often it's much cheaper to prevent diseases than to treat them. For example, if you quit smoking with your doctor's help, your odds get lower for a heart attack, stroke, or cancer. Then you'll be less likely to need expensive medicines or surgery. Weight loss advice can help you avoid diabetes or heart disease and the treatments they involve.

Your primary care doctor is the keeper of your health records. They can share your health history, test results, and list of medications with any other doctors and specialists you see. Having one person in charge can streamline your medical care.

Each checkup gives you a chance to get to know your doctor better. A strong doctor-patient relationship is important. The trust you build will make it easier for you to talk about personal subjects like alcohol or drug use, sex, or urinary tract health. You'll also feel better about asking questions or taking advice from your doctor if problems arise in the future.

Regular checkups also give your doctor a chance to learn more about you. These visits will make your doctor more familiar with your health history, so they'll be able to tell if you develop symptoms that are new or unusual for you. The more your doctor knows, the more personalized care they can give you.

Your annual checkup is also an opportunity to discuss any mental health concerns you have. Talk to your doctor if you have been feeling depressed or anxious.