How often do I need to go to the doctor?

Disclaimer: This post is about PHYSICAL health

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”… if only this were true I could be saving hundreds, possibly thousands, on health insurance and doctor bills. 

Depending on how we were socialized our relationship with doctors will differ. How often you see one; and whether you trust their advice. Your income level and the costs associated with medical visits will also dictate these things. I was going to the doctor regularly when my parents were paying for itwhen I began paying for it - not so much  lol.

Japanese citizens see the doctor as much as 13 (yep, THIRTEEN) times for the year. Meanwhile, on average, Americans visit the doctor four times each year (source). These numbers still seem a little high to me, in a regular year I don’t see my doctor so many times - do you? (Seriously, tell me in the comment section)

In addition to our socialization and costs for healthcare vs income - several other factors influence how often we go to the doctor’s office. 

The huge disparity in the number of doctor’s visits the Japanese make in a year compared to the Americans highlights that universal healthcare (and universal access) is available in one and not the other (just take a guess which). If it’s easier and cheaper for you to see a doctor then you’ll see a doctor more often.

It also depends on your general health. A generally healthy person, who does not smoke and drinks less than 4 times for the month may not have to see their general practitioner as much as a smoker, who also drinks regularly. 

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It also depends on the TYPE of medical service you’re accessing. Surely if you don’t feel well you should go to the doctor and not try to “tough it out”. However, there are some things you would be doing on a fairly regular basis:

  • women over 21 should be getting a pap smear every 2-3 years; 

  • men over 45 should be getting checked regularly for prostate cancer; 

  • and both men and women should begin testing for colon cancer at 50 (source). 

Knowing how often you should be going to the doctor will ultimately depend on your doctor’s advice (ironic huh? lol).  A few years ago I saw my ophthalmologist about 4/5 times in one year, in more recent times I haven’t. So it ultimately depends on what is going on with your body; what the prognosis is; and what the way forward looks like. 

If we’re working on being better individuals - each year better than the next - we need to ensure that we also take care of our physical health: knowing our bodies and their weaknesses. 

How we manage our health, sans medication, may be one of the most important things we can do to keep ourselves in tip-top shape: “The key is for each person to be responsible for their own health. A person with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or one who is simply more susceptible to those conditions, can make lifestyle changes that are much more impactful than any pill I can prescribe (source)". 

So…

  • go to your general practitioner/family doctor at least once a year (unless advised otherwise)

  • if you have any prolonged or recurring health issues, see a doctor as soon as possible

  • take all medication as prescribed, even (and ESPECIALLY) when you start to feel better

  • go to the doctor first, do not analyze symptoms on WebMD and self-medicate. Use WebMD (and all other sources) after you’ve spoken to your doctor, so you are able to speak from an informed position and ask the right questions at the follow-up session

  • take care of your body. 

P.S.: If you’re sexually active (and especially if you have more than one intimate partner) you should get tested fairly regularly (at least once a year). It may not have to be a full STI (sexually transmitted infection) profile, but certainly test for HIV and Syphilis.

Stay (as) healthy (as possible)!