Preventive health care


Alternative Names


All adults should visit their health care provider from time to time, even if they are healthy. The purpose of these visits is to:

  • Screen for diseases, such as high blood pressure or diabetes
  • Look for future disease risks, such as high cholesterol and obesity
  • Discuss alcohol use and safe drinking and tips on how to quit smoking
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle, such as healthy eating and exercise
  • Update vaccinations (See: Immunizations - general overview)
  • Maintain a relationship with your health care provider in case of illness

The following are some of the tests that may be done or scheduled:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar
  • Cholesterol (blood)
  • Colon cancer screening test
  • Depression screening
  • Genetic testing for breast cancer or ovarian cancer in certain women
  • HIV test
  • Mammogram
  • Osteoporosis screening
  • Pap smear
  • Tests for Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases

See also: Physical exam frequency for recommendations by age group

Another part of preventive health is learning to recognize changes in your body that may not be normal, so you can see your health care provider right away, including:

  • A lump anywhere on your body
  • Losing weight without trying
  • A lasting fever
  • A cough that does not go away
  • Body aches and pains that do not go away
  • Changes or blood in your stools
  • Skin changes or sores that do not go away or get worse
  • Other changes or symptoms that are new or do not go away


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Recommendation statement. 2008. Accessed March 20, 2011.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.Guide to clinical preventive services 2008. Rockville, MD. 2008. AHRQ publications 08-05122. Accessed March 20, 2011.

Woolf SH. Principles of preventive health care. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 12.