doctor shaking hands with patient

Must-Make Doctor Appointments for 2024

January 3, 2024
Yelitza Castanos, DNP, and Preston Winters, MD

Yelitza Castanos, DNP, and Preston Winters, MD

We all know we're supposed to be making regular appointments for routine exams and screenings—but which ones are recommended at what age? And how often? Start 2024 off right with our checklist of doctor visits to schedule now.

One good reason to see a doctor, nurse, or medical assistant when you're feeling fine: Medical professionals have the expertise to catch things you may miss. Internist Preston Winters, MD, recalls finding a tiny, dark lesion on the lower back of a healthy 23-year-old man during a routine exam. A dermatologist then confirmed the lesion was a melanoma, removed it, and the man is now simply under surveillance for the rest of his life, not a cancer victim. “Another couple of years and the lesion would have been deeper, may have spread to lymph nodes, and his prognosis would have been far worse,” says Dr. Winters.

Annual physical and dental exams are important to review all your health maintenance and prevent illnesses in the future,” adds nurse practitioner Yelitza Castanos, DNP, an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and an expert in gerontology, the study of aging. “Being up to date with cancer screenings, including colorectal, cervical, and breast, can help prevent something small from becoming something major.”

What is a check-up? 

Regular check-ups—also called physicals, annual exams (though they may be less or more frequent), and well visits—are not the same as seeing a medical professional for injury or illness. Check-ups focus on preventive care.

Dr. Winters says a proper check-up includes a hair-to-toenails physical exam.

It begins with a review of medical, surgical, family, social, work, and sexual histories; allergies; medications; alcohol, tobacco, and substance use; and eating and exercise habits. Recommended screenings and vaccinations are also discussed, and laboratory tests will be performed. All this information helps your doctor notice any changes and understand issues affecting your overall wellness.

“It would be nice if the guidelines folks would all agree,” says Dr. Winters, referring to confusion people may have about the right time and age to have certain exams, like mammography and colonoscopy, and when to stop these screenings. “Best to talk to your doctor. This is another reason regular medical visits are beneficial, to ask questions and determine what’s best for you. There may be individualized recommendations based on your history and health.”

What are the must-make medical appointments of the year? 

For young children, check-ups are the norm. But regular medical visits are beneficial to everyone and lead to appropriate screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer, and more. Doctors and other experts generally follow the lead of professional organizations that advocate for good health, including vision, dental, gynecological, well visits, and more:  

  • Children over age three should have annual well-child visits to check growth and development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Women and people who menstruate, who are sexually active, and/or over age 18 should have annual well visits with a gynecologist, but pelvic exams needn’t always be included, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
  • Men over age 35 should get regular tests of blood pressure and cholesterol, according to the CDC.
  • Everyone who has teeth should visit the dentist to determine the treatment schedule best for them, usually once or twice per year, according to the American Dental Association.
  • After childhood screenings, everyone should have a complete eye exam at age 40, and everyone over age 65 should have exams every year or two, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For adults, especially over age 70, Dr. Castanos says, “Being up to date with vaccines, including COVID-19, RSV, influenza, and shingles, is first and foremost.”

Dr. Winters agrees, adding HPV (human papillomavirus), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough), and pneumococcal vaccines: “I am big on people being up to date on all recommended immunizations for their age group.” He also advises all adults be checked for the Hepatitis C and HIV antibodies at least once, regardless of apparent risk.


Preston Winters, MD, is an internist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC. Yelitza Castanos, DNP, is an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and an Assistant Professor of Nursing at CUIMC.