Why You Need an Annual Physical (and What to Expect)
You may have started your life seeing a doctor regularly. Well-child check-ups are routine as children grow and change.
But as you reach adulthood, that habit of a yearly check-up can slide away. After all, you’re healthy and you aren’t growing anymore.
But annual physicals are not only for children. They are an important part of taking control of your health and wellness at every stage of your life.
Why Do Adults Need Annual Physicals?
Preventive care is the heart and soul of maintaining good health. Annual physicals provide the opportunity to monitor your health and discuss both preventive behavior and regular screenings.
An annual physical examination also gives you the chance to connect with your physician. If you only see them when you’re sick or injured, it’s difficult to establish a relationship of trust. That relationship forms the basis of effective health care.
Seeing your doctor once a year in a calm, non-emergency setting allows you to discuss various aspects of your health and lifestyle. You have the opportunity to address concerns, and the physician can recommend proper health screenings. Together you establish wellness goals.
It is that partnership that promotes positive outcomes. Research shows that positive doctor/patient relationships can improve recovery from illness. A strong connection with your primary care physician makes it easier to be honest about issues causing you distress, especially those you are uncomfortable discussing with others.
What to Expect at Your Annual Physical
Your doctor will tailor your yearly physical to your specific health needs and goals. But there are certain things that you can expect from your visit.
Each year you’ll discuss any changes that have occurred in either your family or individual health history. You’ll also go over any medications you’re taking.
New diagnoses for family members can impact your risk of disease. Changes in your own health become part of your overall wellness plan and goals. This is when you bring up any concerns you may have. It’s also time for discussing lifestyle issues like diet, exercise, sexual health, and drug and alcohol use.
You’ll also have the chance to discuss stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Never be afraid to discuss mental health challenges. Primary care physicians are valuable resources.
These sometimes delicate discussions about sexual and mental health, current concerns, and lifestyle issues rely on positive doctor/patient communication. Seeing your doctor every year builds a foundation of trust so you feel comfortable being open and honest about all aspects of your health.
Your primary care physician will gather general information about your health including blood pressure, temperature, and heart and respiration rates. And yes, they will also have you step on the scale.
Be sure to let your doctor know if any of these routine procedures cause you discomfort. You can discuss causes and how to alleviate any stress you may feel.
You can expect your doctor to listen to your heart and lungs, look in your ears and throat, and the other familiar parts of a physical exam. Checking your abdomen and reflexes, joints and skin health, and assessing your overall appearance are all parts of the exam.
Your physical exam will differ depending on any existing health concerns, your age, and your anatomy. You may have a breast exam, pelvic exam, or Pap test. Or you may have a testicular, hernia, penis, or prostate exam.
You won’t necessarily have lab work at every annual check-up. More likely, blood tests to check your cholesterol and blood sugar will be ordered if you are at high risk or it has been several years since you last had them checked.
Your annual physical is the time to discuss routine screening procedures like mammograms and colonoscopies. When you start these screenings and how often you have them will depend on your personal and family history.
Your doctor will discuss any vaccines they recommend based on your health and age. They will also discuss positive changes you can make to improve your overall health and wellness.
Never be afraid to engage in these discussions. This is your wellness team, and your thoughts and opinions are important. If you don’t think you can accomplish recommended lifestyle changes, have an honest talk with your doctor about smaller steps toward greater goals.
Cost may prevent people from getting an annual physical. Blue Cross Blue Shield and many other insurance companies have plans that offer an annual check-up at no cost. Check your plan and discuss options with your doctor.
An annual physical examination is the best way to establish and maintain a trusting relationship with your primary care physician. Pave the way for better health and wellness by scheduling your appointment today.