Posted by Allison Grant, February 27, 2020 (last updated on November 20, 2020)
Managing your healthcare can be confusing. In your twenties, you may have only gone to the doctor when you were sick (or, if you didn't have insurance, really really sick) and to get your annual check-up (if you remembered to!). Now, you’re in your thirties and starting to realize that your body needs a little more physician-guided TLC than it once did.
As you get older, being proactive about your healthcare becomes increasingly important. No matter how healthy you are, this is the time in your life when you need to start thinking about the big picture of your health — and making sure you’re getting all the essential doctor’s appointments recommended to people in their thirties. Prioritizing preventative care will help you avoid illness and injury now, and it will help you maintain your health and keep your healthcare costs down as you get older.
Below, learn how to manage your healthcare in your thirties including which doctors you should see, recommended medical tests, and questions that might be helpful to ask your doctor. Depending on your medical history or any pre-existing conditions, your doctor may suggest more frequent check-ups or tests than we outline below. Consider this a handy guide to making sure you get the healthcare you need, when you need it, but remember, this isn’t medical advice. Your care team, including your primary care doctor, any specialists you see, or providers you’re treated by at urgent care, can give you more personalized recommendations based on your health journey.
Which doctors should you see in your 30s?
To get the most comprehensive healthcare during your thirties, consider adding a few different types of physicians to your care team. Some may seem more obvious, like getting a physical exam at your primary care doctor’s office or seeing your dentist for your twice-yearly cleaning and exam. Others, however, may not have been on your radar until now. The doctors you should visit in your thirties include:
- Primary care physician (PCP) — Your primary care doctor is the provider you see for common, non-urgent medical concerns. They treat you when you’re sick (unless you’re experiencing an illness or injury that’s not quite an emergency but also not able to wait until you can see your PCP — that’s where urgent care comes in.)
- Dentist — The American Dental Association recommends going to the dentist at least once or twice a year for a cleaning and exam.
- Optometrist — In your thirties, you should visit your eye doctor for a routine eye exam every two years, according to the American Optometric Association. If you have past vision problems or a family history of eye disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, you may need to see the optometrist more often. Always follow their recommendation for how frequently you need your eyes checked.
- Dermatologist — Though it’s a good idea to do monthly self-checks at home, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeing a dermatologist once a year to help detect any potential cancer early, before it has a chance to start growing.
- Mental health professional — Your twenties and thirties can be full of big life transitions, and your mental health needs to be a priority. Even if you don’t have a history of depression, anxiety, or another type of mental health condition, seeing a therapist and/or a psychiatrist may be a good idea when you’re navigating life. If you don’t have a mental health provider in mind, talk to your PCP as they may be able to make a referral.
- Allergist — As if having allergies isn’t bad enough, they can get worse over time. If you feel like you’re constantly battling cold-like symptoms and the mere thought of spring makes you reach for the antihistamines, it’s probably time to see a professional.
- Cardiologist — Your primary care doctor may recommend visiting a cardiologist if you are showing symptoms that could be due to a heart condition, such as shortness of breath, chest pains, or dizziness, according to the American College of Cardiology. If you have a personal or family history of heart disease, getting checked while you're young and in your thirties is a good idea that can help you prevent heart disease, instead of having to treat it in an emergency.
- Endocrinologist — Endocrinologists specialize in treating hormonal conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and metabolic disorders.
- Fertility doctor — Also known as a reproductive endocrinologist, a fertility doctor can discuss your family planning options with you and address any infertility concerns. If you’re undecided about having children, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with a fertility doctor.
- Radiologist — If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may need to start getting mammograms before the typically-recommended age of forty. Your doctor may also refer you to a radiologist for an MRI, CT scan, or x-ray to help them diagnose an injury or illness.
What questions should you ask your doctor in your 30s?
Having open, honest conversations with your healthcare providers is crucial to getting the best preventative care and treatment possible. If you don’t feel comfortable opening up, remember that physicians are professionals and everything you say stays between you and them. If the reason you’re not feeling confident sharing your concerns with your doctor is because of them, consider finding a new physician that takes your insurance. While you’re in between doctors, seek non-emergency care at an urgent care center near you.
There are some pressing questions you might consider asking your doctor in your thirties, including:
- What lifestyle changes do I need to start making? You should touch base with your primary care physician about once every year or two to discuss your weight, diet, exercise habits, and any use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. If you experience drastic changes in your lifestyle between doctor’s appointments, it’s definitely worth an extra visit to detect any underlying problems that could cause long term health issues if left untreated.
- When am I due for vaccine boosters? If you’re not sure when you got your last tetanus vaccine, it’s probably time for another one. According to the CDC, all adults should get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) or Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine every ten years. Pressed for time or can’t get in to see your primary care physician? You may be able to get this vaccine at an urgent care center.
- Am I at risk for certain diseases? This question is especially significant if you know that you have a family history of heart disease, stroke, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Your doctor can help you evaluate your risk factors and discuss preventative care.
- What are my family planning options? If you think you may want to have children in the future, are ready to start trying, or know you don’t want any (or anymore) kids, talking to your physician now about your fertility and family planning options can help set you up for long-term success.
- Is this normal? Talk to your doctor about that random mole that looks slightly different than it used to, rapid weight gain or loss after starting or stopping a medication (including birth control), or any other seemingly random health issue that you’ve been low key avoiding but also maybe low key panicking about. If it’s an emergency, go to the emergency room. If it can’t wait for a doctor’s visit but isn’t an emergency, consider going to urgent care. Not sure which you should visit? Solv’s guide to ER vs. urgent care can help.
Which medical tests should you get in your 30s?
Though we wish that our doctor could diagnose anything and everything with a 5-minute chat in their office, that’s usually not the case. A more in-depth look into whatever ails you allows your physician to make an accurate diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment plan. The medical tests you need in your thirties include (but may not be limited to):
Every one to two years:
- Physical exam
- Eye exam
- Blood pressure check
- Skin screening exam
- Body Mass Index (BMI) evaluation
- Dental exam and cleaning (1 - 2 times a year)
Every five years:
- Cholesterol screening (lipid profile)
- Blood sugar levels/diabetes screening, if you are considered overweight by your physician or another healthcare provider
As recommended by your care team:
- Complete blood count: This test measures the red and white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin in your blood. It can help detect infections, anemia, immune system diseases, and blood disorders.
- Comprehensive metabolic panel: Your physician may recommend this test to get insight into your liver and kidney health, as well as your body’s chemical balance and your metabolism.
- Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screening: Adults with multiple sex partners, a new sex partner, or a sex partner with an STI should be tested.
- Echocardiogram: This imaging test gives your doctor a view of your heart valves and chambers. It’s more detailed than an x-ray and can help detect a wide range of heart conditions.
- Hormone tests: Your doctor may order a blood or urine test to check your hormone levels, including thyroid-stimulating hormone, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone.
(Pro Tip: You can get many lab tests, including STD tests, at an urgent care center.)
Knowing what's going on with your body is the nicest thing you can do for yourself as an adult. If everything looks good, you can rest easy knowing you're healthy. If your physician does detect an issue, knowing sooner rather than later can make a significant difference in the success of treatment.
Doctors appointments every woman should have in her 30s
You may look at your gynecologist as a necessary evil. Honestly, we feel you - getting Pap smears is easily one of the worst parts of being a responsible, healthy adult. But because your reproductive health plays a vital role in your overall health and well-being, your thirties are the time to overcome this and start viewing your gynecologist as a strategic ally. During your thirties, you should get the following exams:
Every three years:
- Pelvic exam to screen for cervical cancer
Every five years:
As recommended by your care team:
- Breast exam
Doctors appointments every man should have in his 30s
While women have an entire checklist of care they need in their thirties, men don’t require quite as many doctor’s visits. Typically, men don’t have to start getting prostate or colorectal cancer screenings until they reach 50, and testicular cancer screenings are only recommended if a lump is found in the testicle. When men are in their thirties, the only gender-specific care they may need is around fertility. If you’re planning on having kids, your doctor may recommend checking testosterone levels or doing a semen analysis, which tests sperm count, motility, and morphology.
Wellness in your thirties
Your thirties are a unique time in your life when a more confident version of yourself emerges — one that makes empowered and informed decisions about your life and your health. While there may be things you need to see your PCP or a specialist for, the real goal here is to improve and maintain your wellness. Preventive care (for example, those regular check-ups mentioned earlier) is critical for being able to catch any health issues in their earliest stages, so you can stay active, vibrant, and free from illness and injuries that prevent you from living your life to the fullest.
If, between doctor’s visits, you find yourself dealing with a less than ideal health condition, remember that urgent care is an affordable alternative to the ER and often more time-sensitive than a visit to the doctor you normally see. You can even book a same-day urgent care appointment through Solv.