You may think that you’re healthy and don’t need to see a doctor, but you never know what could be lurking beneath that picture of perfect health. The key to the proper treatment and management of any chronic disease is early detection; and for that, it’s imperative that you get a comprehensive checkup done once a year.
When you undergo your screening tests, your doctor will look at the results and either give you a clean bill of health or order more tests in case anything looks awry. Seeing your health care provider once a year allows you to ensure that you are up to date with all the required screening tests, vaccines, and so on. It is also an opportunity to discuss healthy eating habits, physical activity schedules, sleep hygiene, sexual health, and so on.
While it’s a good idea for everyone over the age of 40 to get an annual physical exam, younger people may do it once in 2 years. Those who are over 40, and are diagnosed with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease,etc. and are already on medication, definitely need annual physicals; depending on the severity of your condition, your physician may recommend more frequent screening, at least for specific markers. You should also consider annual physicals if you are significantly overweight or obese – because this puts you in the high risk category for several chronic diseases.
Another reason you should schedule annual physicals is if you are a smoker or heavy drinker. Alcohol and tobacco consumption can raise the risk of diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
What Happens in an Annual Physical Exam
Before you come to EPIC Health, you need to be prepared yourself. Bring a list of all medications you are taking, your diet habits, any supplements you take, and a record of your vaccinations till date, as well as a record of your last screening.
When you come in for your annual physical, first your physician will examine you thoroughly. Here’s what you can expect the doctor to check:
- Blood pressure: Normal blood pressure is 120/80; if it’s more than 130/80, you could be hypertensive. Your physician may check it a few times to get an average reading
- Heart rate: The normal reading is 60-100; however, some healthy people may have heart rates lower than 60
- Respiration: 12 to 16 breaths per minute is considered normal for a healthy person; more than 20 per minute may suggest heart or lung problems
- General appearance – the physician will note the pallor and tone of your skin, check if you appear exhausted or energetic, whether you can walk properly, do you seem anxious and so on
- Heart exam: With a stethoscope, the physician will check for any abnormal heart sounds like murmurs.
- Lung exam: Your doctor will check for wheezing, cracking and other abnormal lung sounds which may indicate issues with your lungs
- Head and neck: Ears, nose, throat, tonsils, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries may be checked to get an indication of your overall health.
- Abdomen: your doctor may check for abdominal fluid, bowel sounds, liver size and tenderness, by tapping and palpitation, and with a stethoscope.
- Neurological: Nerves, reflexes, balance, muscle strength and mental state (depression, anxiety) may be evaluated
- Basic dermatological exam
- Extremities: Physical and sensory changes, abnormalities in joints, pulse in arms and legs and so on, may be checked out.
- Males: Your doctor may check for hernia, testicular tenderness and lumps, STDs, and perform a prostrate check.
- Females: Your physician may check for abnormal lumps in the breast, visual abnormalities in the nipples and breasts, and lymph nodes in the underarm. A pelvic exam may be performed to check for reproductive system problems, and a pap smear and HPV for cervical cancer and STDs. Till the age of 54, a mammogram is also recommended every year. For women aged 50 and over, a bone density test is recommended are women in this age group are susceptible to osteoporosis.
- In addition, your doctor may order lab tests like a complete blood count, a urinalysis, a chemistry panel, lipid profile (if the doctor feels you are at risk for high cholesterol) and so on.
- An ECG may be ordered if your doctor finds any problems in your heartbeat in the routine examination.
There are many people who don’t believe in the need for annual tests – and while it may be okay for a young, healthy adult to not do it (once in 2 years may be sufficient), once you hit your 40s, it is in your best interest that you come in for a physical at least once a year.
It may seem like there’s nothing wrong with you, but there could be something hidden under the surface, that may only be detected when you undergo a physical. It’s always good to rule out the possibility of disease. It helps you live life without unnecessarily worrying about your health. And if something does turn up – it’s always good to catch it early, and limit its progression.
Going for annual physicals also helps you to maintain a good bond with your physician, and he will be in a better position to advice you on your health when you are regular.
So, if you haven’t had your annual physical yet, simply click here to schedule your exam now!
Do you have questions and something to say about this post? Would you like to share your experience or story with us? Do drop it in the comments below.
Also view our presentation Physical Exams at EPIC Health for Adult, Child and Sports