Health Check-Ups: How Important Are They, Really?

This past weekend’s “Link Love” highlighted an article called “Rethinking Movement: Why You Should See a Physical Therapist Every Year.” Arguing for a systemic approach to movement and a deeper appreciation for the interconnections among the body’s neuromuscular, skeletal, cardiovascular and even endocrine functioning, professor emerita of physical therapy, Dr. Shirley Sahrmann proposes that taking a more preemptive approach to movement (a.k.a. prehab) throughout life can head off injury, osteoarthritis, chronic pain as well as the common surgeries and other intensive or pharmaceutical treatments related to these conditions. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a channel surfer, she claims an annual check-up by a physical therapist should be routine practice. Having seen so many injuries and pain issues as a trainer (and suffered from them myself), I find her proposal very compelling. More than that, however, her reasoning opens up a larger question: what really should we be monitoring on an annual basis?

As many of you know by now, I tend to embrace the devil’s advocate role, particularly in questioning conventional wisdom. It’s not that I’m out for blood or have a chip on my shoulder (although blatant misinformation does get under my skin). I simply don’t believe in accepting a truth or practice on the sole rationale of “that’s just how it’s done.” Standard health care parameters are no exception here.

When we think about preventative care or maintenance checks, what makes the most sense? Currently, protocol is figured mostly around certain collective risks like hypertension, heart disease and specific cancers. As I’ve argued in the past, even these attempts miss the target, however, with their focus on elementary cholesterol panels and single screenings that may say more about a person’s mood that day or white coat syndrome than their actual state of well-being. And aside from honing some of those exam parameters, where else are we missing the mark – either by focusing on the unnecessary or by missing out on pertinent areas?

In the last few years a number of experts, armed with some persuasive research, have suggested doing away with the standard yearly check-up period. Most notable is a 2012 research review done by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international group of medical researchers. They analyzed 16 peer-reviewed studies with a follow-up range of 4-22 years involving nearly 200,000 people (excluding any studies with subjects 65+) to see whether annual exams lowered the rate of mortality, disability or hospitalization. As another earlier review had shown, the evidence suggested no on all counts. The Cochrane review also found that annual physicals had no effect on “patient worry, unscheduled physician visits…or absences from work.”

On the other hand, major concerns exist around the cost, anxiety and even harm imposed by indicated overdiagnosis with annual check-ups of asymptomatic, under-65 individuals. Based on missing or unclear data in the original studies related to these concerns, the Cochrane Collaboration review didn’t assemble statistics for these areas, but its authors did echo an earlier review’s statement that routinely checking asymptomatic, low-risk people sets up a situation in which “potential for harm is likely to exceed the potential for benefit.”

The researchers note that the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination advised against routine annual physicals as far back as 1979. The United States Preventative Service Task Force stopped recommending standard annual visits ten years later. What both groups suggested instead was “focused health checks guided by patient-specific risk factors.”

Before we imagine what that could be, let’s look at the standard “check-up” protocol for adults in the U.S. for a minute.

  • Family history
  • Height and weight
  • Blood pressure check
  • Cholesterol (often only “total” non-fasting cholesterol or a simple rather than comprehensive panel)
  • Blood sugar (maybe – with fasting blood sugar even rarer)
  • Physical exam
  • Pap smear for women
  • Discussion of diet and exercise habits
  • Vaccination review

I’m sure we’ve all been there – many, many times. Some of us would claim better experiences with these appointments than others. If we have questions about coming changes or would like to optimize health for certain circumstances (e.g. menopause, fertility), an annual discussion with a doctor can be helpful. If that person knows our medical history and has a good bedside manner, even better.

Regardless of the advice or any treatment offered, placebo research suggests that the care of an attentive individual – particularly one we deem knowledgeable as well as understanding – can confer a measurable benefit to emotional as well as certain physical measures of well-being. In keeping with that principle, those who have seen naturopaths or other “non-standard” wellness care providers often emphasize the duration of time and depth of discussion as one of the most helpful or nurturing elements of that relationship.

So, what does all this point to? What should we desire and expect in terms of preventative care and useful consultation?

For the Cochrane Collaboration authors, a central criticism of the standard check-up procedure was its “generic” nature. How can preventative care offer more genuinely helpful screenings and conversation?

While I’m interested more today in posing this as a question for our community discussion (I’m looking forward to reading your perspectives and anecdotes in the comment board), I will propose a few points based on my specific angle of experience.

I’d suggest we miss a significant chance to help educate and support people in terms of basic lifestyle change. How many doctors include five minutes or less of discussion on stress, nutrition, fitness, sleep and other self-care considerations? I’m not even trying to put physicians in the hot seat here. Many would explain their time is limited and already tightly circumscribed by a clinic protocol not of their individual choosing. Likewise, most doctors have very limited training in nutrition and exercise, let alone other areas of wellness practice. They know the conventionally recommended fundamentals (and some know and embrace a deeper understanding of more updated, results-oriented diet and exercise research – even Primal principles).

That said, what would an annual check-up be if we could re-envision it as a varied, open-ended “check-in” with additional elements? How about a postural alignment check-in physiotherapist even if you’re not having physical pain? How about a consultation with a fitness professional for fitness testing and exercise planning? How about the chance to meet with a mental health professional or complementary therapy practitioner for stress relief or other concerns? What about meeting with a dietitian for food allergy or nutrient deficiency testing or for help redesigning your daily diet?

How about the ability to see a wide variety of professionals within particular fields of expertise – for both consultation and testing interpretation? How about making the overall process patient-directed or at least including a meaningful patient-directed component to regular care? What could health care look like – and what would compliance and outcomes be – if patients were expected to design their own health care in the form of a healthy living plan and then given choice in how they allocated insurance or other medical related savings/resources?

What if patients were more involved in creating their own risk profiles based on not just age and family history but also on dietary and other lifestyle elements – and were held more accountable for seeking out care to monitor and manage their noted risks and/or conditions with more targeted care and detailed screenings? How about funneling money that would otherwise be put into standard check-ups be directed toward more updated screenings for risks that fit a patient’s personal profile?

Again, my intent here is to pose more questions than provide answers. I consider this to be one of the most essential conversations we can have in considering our individual choices (and future policy) around health care – how to get people to re-envision wellness and vitality and to cultivate the genuine health integrity that will allow them to take ownership of their well-being.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the problems of annual exams – and the possibilities in re-envisioning them. Also, if you have related questions or ideas you’d like to see in future posts, share those as well. Perhaps this might open an interesting conversation and even post series.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and have a great end to the week.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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71 thoughts on “Health Check-Ups: How Important Are They, Really?”

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  1. “patients were more involved in creating their own risk profiles based on not just age and family history but also on dietary and other lifestyle elements – and were held more accountable”

    Now you are just talking crazy Mark. Patients, being held responsible for their own health?!

  2. I’m obviously someone concerned with my health and fitness, but I haven’t had a check up since becoming an adult, except 1x for an insurance company, and that was extremely cursory.

    If I thought a check up would actually provide me with useful information regarding my health, I’d go!

    Maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing, and seeing a doctor would be very helpful to me, but I just look at it like “hey, i feel great, why would I see a doctor?”

    And I think everyone knows someone like my grandmother who lived to be 101, and until her mid-90’s she pretty much never saw a doctor.

    On the other hand I personally have never heard of anyone who went for a routine physical and found out they had some serious, treatable disease they had no idea they had and thank god they went. I’m sure it happens but I question how often.

    That’ll be 2 cents please.

    1. I’m in the same boat. I’m 34 and haven’t seen a doctor since my early 20s because of an actual injury. The only reason I can ever come up with to go in for check ups is to build a relationship with my doctor so if/when something does go wrong I’ll be more comfortable and my doctor has at least some history on me. Of course if I had concerns, it would also be useful to get face time with a doctor.

      1. The last time I went for an annual checkup was probably 25 years ago. At that time, the doctor, who was more honest than most, told me an annual physical checkup is actually pretty worthless unless the patient comes in with a specific complaint.

        1. I also have not been for a regular check-up since my teens. I’m 59 now. I’ve heard they keep lowering numbers for cholesterol until just about everyone needs to be on a statin. Ridiculous. Until the Big Pharma gets out of doctors pockets, I’ll be skipping them until an emergency happens.

    2. Actually, I do know someone who went for a routine physical & made an off the cuff remark to her Dr. about some new physical changes. He became concerned & sent her for tests. They caught very early pancreatic cancer.
      The thing was, she wasn’t even concerned about the physical changes, only mentioned them in passing, but he honed in on it.
      This is the only story I’ve ever heard of its kind. It doesn’t convince me of the efficacy of annual checkups, but it does impress me with the attention to detail of that doctor!

    3. I only go for yearly pap smear check ups, but this past year proved very useful to me. During the normal course of the pelvic exam, my doctor noticed some new abnormalities in the placement and size of my uterus. If I hadn’t been going to the same doctor for several years, the change may have gone unnoticed, but she referred me for an ultrasound. It turned out that I had a tumor and needed to go back for subsequent biopsy. Fortunately the tumor was not cancerous, but during that examination they took some other local biopsies just to be sure and discovered pre cervical cancer that didn’t show up on the pap smear. This was easily rectified through a simple out patient procedure on another visit. It does happen sometimes – especially if your doctor knows you and pays attention to details!

  3. I haven’t had a checkup in a while. If I schedule one, I’ll first need to do considerable homework on what specific tests to ask for, and discover whether insurance covers them, and if not what the out-of-pocket will be.

    I’m not the least bit interested in junk numbers like TC, LDL-C, TSH or PSA, nor the mis-diagnosis and mis-treatment that is delivered along with them.

    The value of a checkup depends hugely on whether your MD is a consensus quack (almost certain) or a rogue hero (extremely rare).

    The way to get the most out of universal healthcare rationing is to not need it. Any of several paleo/primal/LCHF approaches provide the bulk of that salvation.

  4. I stopped annual exams a few years back. Too many times they’d say I needed a certain test, which would end up showing I was fine but cost me $1000 from my high deductible plan.

    Another reason I stopped going was far too much advice from specialists and general physicians to take some medication “for the rest of your life”. The strong suggestions, which depending on the doctor came across as orders with comments such as “this could save your life”, were nothing more than masks to symptoms and never addresses REAL HEALING.

    Thanks to google and sites like this one, I believe I am far healthier and better off than I ever would have been listening to these “experts”. This is not to say I wouldn’t run to the doctor if I had a broken arm 😉

  5. We certainly advocate a wellness check in at our office. We check postural alignment and advocate a paleo/primal approach. Offer support and make a few recommendations for lifestyle change based on the patients biggest concerns. It’s great to see our patients when they are not in the midst of a crisis. It gives them a chance to cultivate health rather than focus on putting out a fire.

  6. Well I’m one of the dissenters here but not really by choice. I have an endocrinological issue and have to inject testosterone every 10 days. Because of that I see my doctor twice a year. Side effects of exongenous testosterone can be very serious (I haven’t had any but…) so this is why I see the doc, just to make sure nothing unwanted is happening. Otherwise I’m not sure how often I would go. I believe in preventive care but not at huge expense especially if you can monitor some things at home and take a healthy approach to life as we do here. AIso I don’t need to hear that I need to eat less fat and eat whole grains as much as possible. I already hear enough of that from my company wellness people.

  7. As someone who is both health motivated and a professional within the health care field, I can tell you that there are certainly some large gaps in care. One of which you pointed to was the lack of musculoskeletal/movement evaluations present during the standard ‘check up’.

    I believe applications of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Gray Cook, could help fill this gap and provide a qualitative metric to help people monitor their physical capacity. FMS was originally developed to help standardize movement capacity and assign/address risk factors such as tightness/assymetry before they impact performance or show up in the physical therapy clinic.

  8. This is a great article. I would love to see the tests you mentioned instead of the usual standard tests. Functional medicine doctors often perform food allergy and nutrient testing but they are pretty expensive. My doctor is great, he doesn’t automatically do cholesterol testing, he recommends Vitamin D testing and eliminating gluten and eating a lower carb diet. Still, he doesn’t do nutrient testing yet.

    1. Wow. That sounds great.
      My dr. tests cholesterol, just total, LDL, & HDL every year. And she takes it as a personal affront when I annually refuse her offer of “very low-dose” statins.
      Yeah, I should find another dr. But she has proven to be great in a health crisis, so I’m reticent to switch offices.

      1. He doesn’t take ANY insurance so he pretty much does what he wants. His prices are quite fair, too.

  9. I think this point was a good one: ” What could health care look like –and what would compliance and outcomes be –if patients were expected to design their own health care in the form of a healthy living plan and then given choice in how they allocated insurance or other medical related savings/resources?”

    I would love to see us be able to direct the resources where we wanted. Instead of having to funnel the money in areas we find not useful, we could slot that money where we wanted, like allergy testing, rolfing, maybe a meditation practitioner. These things I find to be the most useful, yet they are mostly never covered by insurance. So here you are paying for insurance every month for practitioners that dont really do anything for you, yet the ones you need are outside of coverage. I sure do appreciate the emergency coverage of insuramce, but most of the time, we dont need that.

    In any rate, having that choice would make me able to afford the care that I REALLY need. So here we sit with symptoms that mainstream medicine cant address, but I cant afford the out of pocket fees.

    1. I see this program as a racket for the very reasons you stated. Inflated prices and higher deductions are supposed to be fair? I have no use for allopathic treatments and it makes me angry our health care is chosen for us and then we are forced to pay for something we can’t use. I’d like to see these costs come out of the pockets of the politicians who voted this in. I loath this new “affordable” system.

      I am in the same boat. Finances are tough. Even tho, private naturopathic doctors are expensive, their knowledge and deductive skills plus drug free guidance will save a whole lot more in the future and keep folks off the pharma merry go round that further erodes ones still functioning systems.

      I’ve been without insurance coverage for over 15 years. The wonderful thing that occurred was that I learned to really understand how to take care of myself. In my searches for health answers I found MDA. Honestly, if more than half the population of this nation followed the tenets here, the health crisis would not exist.

  10. I’ve stopped going to see my GP, because all he ever wanted was to prescribe medication, and send me off to specialists for tests, without trying other options. If it were for him, I would have had to take BP meds for about 10 years now. And I don’t need them. I take my BP at home to see where I stand, but since I’m trying to do everything in my power to stay healthy, I’ve improved my health quite a lot.
    I also have lost faith in him, since my son is obese, and whenever he went there for other small things, the GP only ever said to him, “you have to lose weight”, without any further help, or making it clear how bad it was for him to be that heavy.

    I’m very much for trying everything natural first, and if all else fails, see the GP. I haven’t had the need for his help in years, and I’m 50 now.
    I also hate to think I’d have to take medication because of my lifestyle! I’d rather change that, as I’ve been doing.
    I think I have my mother for a bad example. She’s always taken a pill for every little thing, and seeing her doctor for every little thing, without ever getting better, and without changing anything in her life. She’s been in bad shape for far longer then it needed to be, and her bad example helps me to try doing better for myself.

  11. This is simply a financial philosophy, but I feel that we should view medical insurance in the same way that we view car or life insurance… it’s something that we pay for in order to cover catastrophic but rare issues that may arise, rather than something to provide for annual checkups with individuals whose advice we won’t be taking anyway. Doctors don’t, on the whole, seem to be very good at keeping us healthy, but they are VERY good at stitching us back together after trauma. If I found out that I had a debilitating disease that needed extremely expensive treatment, then of course I would be very glad for my medical insurance and the financial protections that it affords me. The trouble is that medical insurance relies on averages – most people they cover will NOT have catastrophic health concerns and therefore covering a wide variety of individuals with “services” that they never will need or use becomes a profitable endeavor. Hmmmm.

    In addition to that, I also believe in personal responsibility for self-care. This includes choosing to pay a larger percentage of my income for more expensive foods – grass-fed/pastured meats, organic fruits and vegetables, etc. This is my choice. Per capita, Americans pay far lower percentages of their income toward food than any other country. This indicates that we don’t know the real cost of food, just as we don’t acknowledge the real cost of maintaining health. So I would advocate for extending this personal responsibility toward choosing how any “preventive care” dollars – my dollars – are applied to maintaining my own health. For me, this includes therapeutic massage, exercise and fitness equipment, and high quality food. This won’t include an annual checkup with a mainstream medical doctor, however.

    1. Amen to this! I’m forced to pay $400/month for high deductible insurance that I don’t even use (nor would I for critical illness like cancer, but rather only for traumatic injuries). We spend close to $2000/month on food for our 3 boys. Pasture raised meat, raw grass-fed milk, soy-free truly free range organic eggs… all from a local farm. Organic produce usually from Whole Foods because I just don’t have the time to travel to farmer’s markets (most of which don’t have organic anyway around here), but sometimes from an Amish farm. I’ve mentioned casually to family how much we spend on food, and they all think we are crazy – like totally bat-poop insane. I’ve never given it a second thought… this is how much quality food costs, this is how much we eat, this is what we pay. The LAST place I would cut the budget is food. I don’t need to have a $50,000 vehicle and a $300,000 house… our health is so much more important than that!!

  12. If I didn’t get my annual blood tests, how would I have known that my cholesterol results were staying at elevated levels despite a primal diet, thus putting me at risk for diabetes and heart disease? How would I have known to make changes to my diet and how would I know if said changes are working?

    I’m highly skeptical of the idea that when the primal diet results in less than optimal lipid panel results, instead of one questioning the diet, the trend is to question the validity of standard testing and optimal ranges.

  13. Great topic! I always go for my yearly gynecologist appointment and I regularly visit the chiropractor, but I haven’t had a “yearly physical” in quite a few years. I feel great, rarely get sick, and I just don’t see the need. I suppose I’ll probably get a full work up before I try to conceive in a few years.

    I definitely agree that annual exams should be re-imagined!

  14. I had one of those DNA services map my genome and then ran my raw DNA through a website that links it with studies connected to certain genes (, then and found a potential issue with my liver. Coincidentally, I was going through my family tree “paper trail” (finding documents) and I found both my paternal grandfather and paternal aunt had died of a liver-related issue. So when I go in for my annual physical, I’m going to ask for liver tests.

    I think this could be the direction of medicine in the future; where we know more about our unique genomes, and as patients, we target areas of concern and use the science to check those areas.

    1. Heads up…The great Denise Minger (Death by Food Pyramid) now offers consultation and helps with your 23andme results.

      1. That’s so interesting! I’ll google her but if you have a link, I’d love that too. Thank you!

  15. I haven’t seen a doctor since my first pregnancy 9 years ago. They’ve always been rather useless or counterproductive to me. My husband goes sometimes, he has hypertension and so far he needs meds to manage it. If I developed a problem that they could help with I would see a doctor.

  16. I’m almost 70 and have had some health issues in the past few years. What I discovered was I had to take the initiative and the responsibility to fix them myself. A glucose monitor and my own little blood pressure machine have been great tools. Along quarterly blood tests, they give me great feedback on how I’m doing and I can adjust quickly if needed. The doctor gets the same results I do, online. Any numbers that are out of normal range are highlighted and will alert someone in their office to call me.

  17. The trouble is finding a medical doctor who is knowledgeable about preventing disease and injury and promoting healthy longevity. It’s like a dating game trying to find a good MD, and with sky high insurance deductibles, it costs much more than actual dating.

    You know you’re in the wrong place when that doctor’s exam room is plastered with drug company posters.

    So, I look out for my own health as best I can.

  18. I go in for an annual OB/GYN visit but haven’t been to a general practitioner since 2006. I just gave up after my Dr. was extremely patronizing when I asked about something. I wish I had some sort of relationship with a normal Dr. though. If something did happen where I needed some sort of medical care it’d be really nice to know the Dr.

  19. Hi Mark,

    I’ve been following your blog for ~3 years and I think your questions re: annual health checkups may be the most important, and possibly impactful, advice you’ve ever given. Long before I started reading your Primal Blueprint, I took responsibility for my own physical checkups by doing what you suggested at the end of today’s post. That is, I get bloodwork every six months and log (and plot)in a large Excel sheet each of about 20 major markers of what’s going on inside my body. To name a few of the more important ones: CRP, PSA, Lipid Panel including LDL Size and Patern, Cortisol, Mercury, and others. By tracking these markers along with weight, body fat, resting pulse and others I have become ‘armed’ with key data about my body and it enables me to then seek out various medical experts to answer more specific questions I have, particularly those generated by your excellent primal posts. One side benefit is that I have all my medical history in one place, something the medical profession still hasn’t learned how to do. It’s not that hard and I highly recommend it.

    1. Bill and also Mark and MDA folk can we please have a post on what are the best tests and the best places to get them out of pocket?

      Like I don’t think I’ve ever had CRP, is that correct?, the main inflammation marker tested.

      I know you can order tests yourself and some are not that pricey. I tend to agree the data can be fun and useful.

      And for me with over 100 lb weight loss, and HDL never out of low 30s, and a huge diet change, it made a lot of sense to track things.

      I guess if one had never been sick or obese never tracking is a reasonable choice.

      1. I order tests for my patients through “Direct Labs” (just add the .com and you go straight the site. My patients get them slightly cheaper if ordered through our office, but the tests can be ordered by a DIY type of biohacker as well without a health professionals prescription. This month they have a great deal on what they call a “mens health check” for $109. It includes
        “Lipids (cholesterol, HDL, LDL, the risk ratio, triglycerides)
        Complete Blood Count (CBC’s)
        Fluids and Electrolytes
        Thyroid Includes T-3 Uptake, T4, T7, TSH
        Glucose (Diabetes)
        Mineral and Bone

  20. I’m 65 and I have never had a physical exam, except maybe way back in junior high school. I don’t trust doctors at all. I haven’t even had health insurance since the late 1970’s, but now I finally enrolled in Medicare so I will get health insurance because it’s finally cheap enough to afford. And I am only getting it so I can go to my dermatologist on occasion. Still, I won’t let a doctor touch me unless it is dire and I can’t figure it out for myself.

  21. What would the medical establishment live of, if it was to do away with the routine yearly check up and the dispensing of often unnecessary medication?

  22. Jed, I am with you. I feel the exact same way. I have not been to a doctor in years either. I was 10 years old the last time I was in a hospital bed, and that was many moons ago. Since going primal, I feel great, and since I gave up all processed foods and added sugar, my body is able to communicate with me about what I should be doing to remain healthy. My brain really does tell me what to eat, and how much exercise I need. I do not trust western medical practices by any stretch of the imagination, and if I did fall victim to some serious disease, I would chalk it up to Divine Providence and go out gracefully. No one is going to live forever. Even if I was diagnosed with one of the chronic diseases so many people get, I still wouldn’t turn to western medicine nor big pharma for an answer unless I could not find my own answers and became too ill to work and support myself.

  23. Very interesting story regarding my last check-up. BTW I am going to annual checkups. I was in horrible shape a couple of years ago and it is interesting how my trigs and cholesterol numbers are changing. Who knows, a researcher at some point might find them useful.

    Well last September the only red flag I had was my vitamin D was ‘too high’. It was 88 in whatever the common units are for vitamin D.

    It was less than a week after going to PrimalCon. Yes, I know, I am lucky and it was great. So I was out in the sun A LOT for 3 plus days straight. Didn’t burn a lick and no sunscreen. I also hadn’t gotten sick once the previous year and my daily allergies had gone away.

    I was taking 5,000 I.U. of vitamin D. My doctor said stop. Of course I researched it but there is actually not a lot of consensus. So of course I would filter everything my doctor said through the best research I could, but still could not find anything other than 88 is considered ‘high’. Now it could have been even higher than normal because of PrimalCon.

    But I stopped. In December I get a cold. Not horrible, but it lasted a bit. I burned a lot more a couple of months ago. I got pink eye around a month or so ago, viral infection. And my allergies came back.

    Turns out vitamin D is related to all of these. We sunburn to raise our skin temperature and this creates more vitamin D. Vitamin D and immunity are linked. Turns out seasonal allergies and vitamin D are linked. I even had this small white spot on one knee that went away.

    Anyhow who knows? Maybe 88 is low for me and my body was ramping up vitamin D. In any case the only advice I got via my last check-up seemed to backfire. I am back taking vitamin D. I use naturewise which seems to make a pretty good D.

  24. Totally agree that some of the most important health factors are glossed over in these checkups. I think it’s good practice to get checked out once per year, but better quality visits could make a great difference for so many people!

  25. I have an annual sometimes, to get a look at the bloodwork. I hear from people sometimes that getting an annual will PREVENT iillness. We here know this to be fairly silly. Some of what is done can assist with diagnosis of a condition, but there is nothing about an annual that will prevent sickness.
    Now, eating paleo, maintaining a healthy weight, staying strong & fit, and getting some sunshine & fresh air? THAT will help prevent sickness.

  26. No annuals for me. Just visit my doctor for trauma, broken ribs, etc. I do visit my eye doctor yearly and my dentist. They have special skills that are about wellness. I went to the doctor recently regarding serious depression symptoms and and she was really great by talking about stress, sleep etc. she did give me a prescription but immediately we talked about how to change my life to be able to feel normal naturally.

  27. I think the last time I went to a doctor have been 6 years ago.

    I did a blood exam last year and chose myself what to have it tested for: the receptionist told me “you know… many of these are not covered by standard insurance, you’re gonna pay for them”. Seriously, health care needs to be reformed…

  28. The majority of my experiences with doctors (though few) have been negative. Misdiagnosis, overconcern about elevated blood pressure (Dude, the cuff is way too tight and it’s killing me even before you pump it up!), obviously weight, etc etc.

    Last time I had a significant visit with a doctor she wanted to propose high blood pressure medicine for me. “No thanks,” I say. “I can handle this.” (And I did)

    “On the other hand, major concerns exist around the cost, anxiety and even harm imposed by indicated overdiagnosis with annual check-ups of asymptomatic, under-65 individuals.”

    I am asymptomatic and definitely under 65 and I intend to be the oldest woman in the United States not on a prescription drug.

    Doctors are not trained to do root cause analysis of symptoms and end up treating the end points of diseases rather than the real causes. And each drug creates side effects that other drugs are prescribed for.

    And we’ve become a nation of hypochondriacs who sit on couches and compare our pills to one another.

    Not for me, brudder. Not for me.

    1. Hi Julie,
      I intend to give you some competition with the “oldest woman in the United States not on a prescription drug” thing. 😉

        1. Same I am 67 and not on any drug. Haven’t seen a general practitioner since I began Primal eating and my sinus infections stopped around 2012. I am the oldest of 5 and the only one without significant health issues and my sibs complain “you got all the good genes first”. I still sprint now and then.

        2. Me too!
          I’m already the only person around me on no medications.

  29. I am disgusted with the modern tendency for doctors/hospitals to recommend tests and procedures apparently based only on age, and whether or not your insurance (or you) will pay for them… To me, this looks like a “revenue generation” practice.
    Into this category, I lump the following:
    Flu shots
    Over-50 colonoscopy
    Post-menopause bone scan

    Sure, each one of these things is an excellent idea for many, or even most, people. However, each has factors to consider.
    There is no big need for a flu shot if you are not in a position to be exposed to a large number of people, and are generally healthy.
    Colonoscopy is a somewhat risky procedure (risk of perforation, hepatitis infection), not to mention the gut stress of the cleanout prior, and if you are not on the SAD diet, and eat plenty of vegetables and grass-fed meats, your risk of colon cancer is pretty low.
    If you are an active post-menopausal person, who lifts and carries heavy things regularly (groceries, grandchildren, bags of chicken feed, etc.), your bones are probably fine. That said, I decided to do one bone scan now (57, post-menopause) as a benchmark. I might do another when I turn 70.
    Mammograms are well-known in medical literature as being incapable of imaging many if not most breast cancers. As a person with cystic tissue, requiring several repeated mammograms to establish the nature of the false findings that occur each time, I decided to opt out.

    I think each person has to be as aware as possible of their own health, and the information around their “issues”. Blanket policy is not going to take the best care of either you, or the overall cost of healthcare.

  30. One of the biggest issues I see with our current medical system is that doctors are “too specialized”. For me, that specialization resulted in several misdiagnoses. My health professional of choice has been my chiropractor. He is supportive of the primal lifestyle. He takes the time to discuss my concerns and gets to know me on a personal level. When I come in for a visit, he can quickly determine when something is off. I don’t even have to tell him. It is important to have an individual in your life that understands and relates to you and your biological makeup.

    Becoming primal has also brought me in tune with my body. If something is off, I know what adjustments need to be made. If it is something that I don’t recognize, then I will seek out advice.

  31. Just set an annual exam for next week. Having reversed full blown metabolic syndrome and serious iron overload three years ago with a primal approach I am interested in a few basic biomarkers. I pay insurance premiums and will use the results for what they are worth. My doc was dismissive of my first mention of the word ‘paleo’ at that time. Not anymore. At age 62, male, a basic annual set of tests specific to my background and recent history is not excessive, imho. Maintaining a 70 pound weight loss and good blood work over three years is testimony enough to the approach’s utility.

  32. Screening for a certain disease is not the same as prevention. True prevention is taking responsibility for your own health by eating well, moving well, thinking well and with an optimal brain body connection through regular chiropractic care. If we wait until a screening turns up positive for whatever, it has become too late!

    Responsibility for your own health also means making it a priority and not making decisions based on what insurance will cover. Insurance should be just that, insurance against an emergency, unforeseen experience; just the way car insurance works. You don’t expect to have your car insurance cover regular maintenance and tune-ups so why should your health insurance?

  33. I met with three different dietitians trying to zone in on my health problems. Each one recommended the SAD diet even knowing I’m allergic to dairy, diabetic and deal daily with chronic diarrhea. Just drink the milk and take a supplement to cope with its side effects and make your grains be whole grains. They have switched from the food pyramid to My Plate which is only 1/4 grains with the milk on the side. Still not helpful.

    Until medical schools teach real health I have no hope of getting the help I need.

  34. My primary doctor is also my chiropractor. She has helped me with my frame as well as allergies and energy that needs to be cleared. If I need more help I have a person who is trained to “listen” to your body’s reaction and find the root problem. As of late I was having digestion problems, we found that the small intestine was not working properly but to “fix” the problem we needed to find a supplement that supported the brain. I really appreciate her help and she is finally also seeing the need to rid herself of grains. (I told her she needed to get rid of them earlier but she wasn’t ready yet so now she is….. yay)
    I may need to see a doctor for what may be a haital hernia, however, not yet. Plus, after falling (without breaking anything thankfully) the doctor at the Immediate Care facility told me to get a primary care doctor so I could have a bone density test. Not sure I want to do that until I make sure I am aware of what I can do to make my bones healthy naturally – Vit D and exercise are my thoughts on that so far.
    However, it would be nice to see how I’m doing with all the blood work stuff, hormones, etc now that I’ve been primal about 3 years. I rarely get sick unless I am stressed or having a lack of sleep issue….. Until I make that decision I will continue to eat well and be active and do my best to NOT FALL OVER anymore.

    1. Don’t want to put you off, but I read some scary stuff about how doing the usual “neck release” move at the chiropractor is a really dangerous exercise that can induce a stroke, and has very little benefit. I did my own research on trigger points, in particular a book by Claire Davies called “trigger point therapy”, and was able to do away with chiropractors altogether.

      I have lost count of the times I have self-healed using this book, and the injuries ranging from chronic lower back ache, shoulder injuries, even heart arrhythmia being caused by the “arrhythmia” trigger point, which really exists, I wouldn’t believe it unless I experienced for myself the effects of deactivating a scary “arrhythmia” using nothing more than a trigger point massage. There are many causes of arrhythmia, some very serious, but I was lucky that I had the “trigger point” version, evident by the fact it disappeared after self-massage.

      Maybe I picked the wrong chiropractors, but they kept “threatening” that if I didn’t have a regular upkeep of visits my pain would return. I’ve since deactivated all trigger points, and 10 years later I don’t have a single pain, and can exercise hard, and sprint (would not have thought possible 10 years back).

      When I get an injury now, I can immediately self treat, and no longer put up with the “doomsday” threats from chiropractors that my back is degrading, and only regular visits to them will save me – won’t be going to a chiropractor ever again.

      1. I know the type of chiro that you are talking about. I quit going to that type probably 25 years ago. He was NOT nice, he started being mean right after I refused to buy new headrests for my vintage truck. Never went back, I’m not paying for someone to abuse me! The one I have now is nothing like that and uses the pressure points as you mention so I don’t need her much unless I throw myself to the ground, well, fall…… rrrrrr.
        Thank you for your concern.

  35. I was listening to a story on NPR just this week about how doctors are not required to study nutrition and how some med students are trying to handle that themselves. I’m sure they’re still whole-graining it but at least they realize they’re missing a significant underpinning for health.

    1. I think as time progresses, new med students will go against the grain (lol – pun intended)

      1. YES!!! My hope, too. New hope for young doctors that really want to root out and cure disease.

  36. I go to my GP once a year. Since I have leaned towards the primal blueprint all of my tests have improved significantly. When it comes to preventative medicine, no MD can do for one what one can do for oneself. The key is having the correct information. In that respect I keep telling him to read MDA.

  37. Totally agree with you, Mark! I only get my blood checked every 5 years or so and paps every 3. But now that I’m primal I expect it to be less. It’s more important to “know thyself” and get to a doctor when you have an unexplained change that could be an indicator of a potential health issue. That’s how I live my life, anyway. Makes the most sense to me.

  38. I don’t know. I’m 57 and have been healthy my whole life. I’ve not gone for yearly physicals, had healthy paps three years in a row so go less often. I eat primally 90% of the time and have the occasional treat from time to time (no one ever got to the Pearly Gates and said they wished they had enjoyed life less, trust me). The last time I had a CBC, the blood tests showed textbook perfect triglycerides and the hormones of someone much younger than me (I also look younger than my age, something I attribute to Primal living). I take complete responsibility for my own health and always have but was diagnosed with something quite by accident that has been there since birth.

    After getting sick for the first time in 6 yrs over the holidays, I was diagnosed with a slight congenital heart defect (bicuspid valve) and an enlargement of my ascending aorta (not at aneurysm level). The bicuspid valve made me more likely to have the aortic enlargement. Would screening have helped? No. Did my healthy lifestyle help? Yes, but only because I am lean, have low BP and am generally healthy.

    I still take responsibility for my own health. And still distrust most allopathic doctors.

  39. I stay away from the doctor unless I’m sick and need one. All my life he only ever suggested over the counter medicine or to do things in my life to reduce stress, so I think I can handle that on my own.

    I have a partner who is 15 years older than me. He goes to the doctor for every little thing, he takes lots of medications, Rx and OTC, for every little thing. He’s all full of aches and pains and brain fog and doesn’t lift or eat primal. Chronic cardio so much he’s actually got an enlarged athlete’s heart and thus “heart disease.” So yeah, I do the opposite of whatever he does, and one thing he does is get regular checkups and tests that leave him worried as all hell until he gets the results which tell him he’s fine, but until then, he’s sure for the weeks he’s waiting for the results that he’s on the verge of death. Every little ache and pain is some horrible disease he found on Google until finally the doctor gives him the report and then he brags about his health for a while until the next round of tests or the next little pain comes up whereupon he’s fairly certain this is the end.

  40. I’m not against the anual medical per-se, but I would like to get a better feedback. I went though a very deep check-up a few years ago, including ultrasound of the organs. After that, they sent me a letter with a list of all the issues they found, including a problem with my thyroid (goiter). Did they offer me any plan to get better? no. Did they asked about my habits and/or told me to quit smoking+drinking etc? no.
    After that check-up I only felt sick and hopeless. I’m now reading Izabella Wentz’s book “Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis”, and just starting to understand my condition. I feel empowered and hopeful for the future when taking health in my own hands, thank you very much.

  41. If your over 50, then doing an annual check up for an “nasty” protein markers in your blood is a good idea, along with a colonoscopy every few years.

    In terms of exercise, I do a “continual” check up via doing my own research into exercise techniques, and understanding the body – there are a stack of books out there just waiting to be read.

  42. I’m 32 and I don’t have any health problems, so for me I really don’t find it necessary to go for an annual exam or really to the doctor at all. In fact the last time I went was when my son was born 3 1/2 years ago. If I was older and had health problems I can see going more frequently and even then it would not be to a mainstream doctor. It would be someone that practices functional or integrative medicine or a naturopath/holistic practitioner.

  43. I am wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of someone who would read blood panel results. I reached out to one of the Chiros who commented here but he won’t read results for anyone he has examined. I would really love to go down this road but I need a Dr who is primal sensitive and familiar with panels so I actually get the right observations. Anybody have any ideas?


  44. There are many hospitals offering regular health checkup packages. You will find a separate package for women, kids, and men. For women itself, a well-woman checkup and a general checkup package exist that can rule out the possibility of any disease. You just need to make sure that you get checked at regular intervals which are initially at a gap of one year and then after every three years. Learn more at :

  45. Yes!! I totally agree that everyone should do yearly checkup i.e preventive health checkup that helps to detect and diagnosing diseases at an early stage. It motivate us to take preventive actions according to our health status and help to live long healthy life without any serious health problems.