Making the Most of Your Annual Physical

annual physical

Your annual physical with your doctor is one of the most important aspects to staying healthy. Think of your doctor as your “home base” – he or she is usually the person who coordinates your health care, whether that means referring you to specialists, managing your medications, or just keeping tabs on any conditions or potential conditions that might arise. Use these tips to prepare for your next visit.

Keep a written account of any health changes. How are you feeling? A year is a long time, and even if you’ve seen your doctor recently for a specific issue, you want to give him or her an overview of your general health. Don’t assume that small changes in how you feel are not worth mentioning. Make a list throughout the year so that you can give your doctor an accurate picture of what’s happening. For example, include changes in energy level, a suspicious mole, or anything else unusual. While it may seem trivial to you, it could be a symptom of something more significant. Of course, in the case of a mole or other skin condition, or anything else that raises a red flag in your mind, schedule a visit with your doctor as soon as possible.

Take a list of all of your medications and dosages. Your doctor should know what medications you take regularly, but if you have multiple prescriptions from different providers, your records might not be completely up-to-date. A list of each medication, how much you take, and how often, as well as any over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, or vitamins, will help your doctor better manage your prescriptions and prevent any adverse reactions.

Know about changes in your family history. Any significant changes in your immediate family’s health should be noted in your medical records. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions affecting a parent or sibling could be important information that helps your doctor know what to look for during your physical.

Questions to ask during your physical

What is my BMI? Your BMI, or body mass index, measures the relationship between your weight and height. If you don’t track your weight closely on a regular basis, it can be helpful to know if your BMI has increased, decreased, or remained stable since your last appointment. A high BMI can raise your risk for many conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

What tests do I need? Ask your doctor what preventive screenings are appropriate and make sure that you get them as recommended. This includes blood tests, a mammogram, colonoscopy, or other procedures depending on your age, gender, family history, or specific medical conditions.

Is it time for vaccines? Vaccines aren’t just for children! In fact, depending on your age and gender, several routine vaccinations might be necessary, including tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap), Zoster (shingles), and others.

Based on my overall health status, should I look for anything particular in the coming year? Our bodies change all the time. You may have to keep an eye on certain things that weren’t an issue a year or two ago. Make sure that you ask your doctor if you’re at risk for any conditions and what the symptoms would be.

Above all, don’t let fear or embarrassment discourage you from asking your doctor the questions that are important to you. He or she is your best resource for coordinating your overall care, and it’s essential that you provide a full picture of your health so that your doctor can do his or her job – which is to keep you healthy!


Photo by Vic / CC BY

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