4 Ways Annual Physicals Change As You Age

Sep 01, 2023

4 Ways Annual Physicals Change As You Age

Here at Refine Medical in Oklahoma City, we think that when it comes to keeping yourself healthy through every stage of life, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. We also know that the foundation of sustained health and wellness is having an annual physical exam with your primary care provider. 

As one of the most important components of preventive medicine, your yearly checkup gives you invaluable insights into your health today — and the tools you need to sustain your health into the future. 

While the overall objective of your annual physical exam remains the same at every age, its assessments and screenings evolve over time. Here, Heather Kennedy, PA-C, explores four ways your routine physical adjusts to meet your changing needs as you get older. 

1. After young adulthood, annual exams are more important

When you’re in your 20s and 30s and relatively healthy — meaning you don’t have a diagnosed medical condition and you aren’t in the “high risk” pool for developing a chronic disease — you can schedule your regular physical exams every two years or so without much worry. 

During these younger adult years, our primary focus is:

  • Measuring your blood pressure and body weight at each visit
  • Listening to your heart and lungs and checking your abdomen 
  • Evaluating your cholesterol and triglyceride levels every five years 
  • Providing immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases 
  • Conducting routine women’s health screenings as recommended
  • Discussing current lifestyle habits and areas for improvement 

For young adults with significant disease risk factors — such as being overweight or inactive or having a family history of stroke or heart attack — annual exams are recommended. This increased rate of exam frequency is also recommended for all adults starting at age 40. Why? That’s when everyone’s risk for chronic illness increases.  

2. Starting in your 40s, a surge of preventive health screenings 

Once you turn 40, your annual physical starts to incorporate additional health screenings. If you smoked, lived a sedentary lifestyle, ate an unhealthy diet, or didn’t wear sun protection in the previous years, this is often the decade when the consequences start to manifest.

Even if you don’t have too many unhealthy habits, simply being middle-aged increases your risk of developing “silent” chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. As such, you can expect your recommended screenings to include: 

  • Blood lipid screenings (cholesterol and triglycerides) every 1-2 years
  • Annual diabetes screenings (blood glucose measurements) starting at age 45 
  • A series of follow-up blood pressure readings after any elevated measurement
  • Colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 45 if you’re of average risk
  • Continued Pap smear and HPV testing every 3-5 years for women
  • One-time hepatitis C and chronic hepatitis B testing
  • STD screenings as needed 


We also discuss the health implications of a high body mass index (BMI), and we offer weight loss management assistance as needed. Treating any of these emerging health problems early can help you avoid worsening health complications later in life. 

3. In your 50s, hormone-related health effects come into focus 

Along with basic evaluations, the recommended health screenings you begin in your 40s continue into your 50s. The primary shift in this decade of life involves the physical effects of age-related hormonal changes, such as slowed metabolism, easy weight gain, fatigue, low libido, and sleeping difficulties. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy can be helpful.

Although women tend to experience more pronounced effects from hormone-related changes due to menopause, which is the end of female menstruation and fertility, men can also experience similar changes with naturally declining testosterone levels. 

Furthermore, current guidelines recommend that women of average risk start having mammograms every two years starting at age 50. At some point in your 50s, we may also recommend:

  • Annual lung CT scans for certain current and former smokers
  • A PSA-test to screen for prostate cancer in men (after discussing pros and cons)
  • A one-time shingles vaccine along with your next tetanus shot   

 Because bone and muscle loss tend to begin accelerating at this age, we also discuss the importance of engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise and taking vitamin D supplements. 

4. Starting in your 60s, a renewed focus on health preservation 

In your 60s, you can expect your annual exams to continue providing the same basic health evaluations, blood tests, and blood pressure screenings as before, along with preventive screenings and immunization updates as needed.   

At this age, you may start to notice small changes in cognitive function as well as a noticeable decline in immune system function that leaves you more susceptible to infection and acute illness. In addition to evaluating your cognitive function, we can offer strategies for boosting your immunity and staying healthy.   

If you’re a woman, osteoporosis screenings with regular bone density scans become a priority at this age. Many women in their 60s have lost enough bone density to substantially increase their risk for suffering bone fractures in falls. Depending on your health history, you may also be able to stop having Pap tests at age 65. 

To schedule your next physical exam at Refine Medical, call 405-609-7369 or book an appointment online.