What is an Annual Physical Exam?
An annual physical exam is an exam that your doctor performs to check your overall health and screen you for possible diseases.
Your annual exam is not designed to treat a particular illness.
Instead, it's intended to help prevent you from developing diseases and to detect diseases that could already be developing as early as possible.
What Happens at a Physical Exam?
There are several components to a physical examination.
Each component provides your doctor with information about your overall health and can help to detect common diseases in their early stages.
Some of the key parts of what to expect at a physical exam include:
During the health history, your doctor will ask general questions about your health to see if anything has changed in your health.
Also, they'll be able to evaluate if there are lifestyle changes that they can recommend to help you become healthier.
Your health history can also help your doctor better understand your specific health goals and the type of lifestyle you would like to live.
Vital signs include your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate, and oxygen levels.
Disease or illnesses almost always affect one or more of these vital signs, so evaluating them each visit provides your doctor with important information.
Your vital signs can also help detect possible risk factors for other conditions, such as high blood pressure, that could increase your risk of heart problems.
The physical assessment is the part of your annual exam where your doctor will physically examine you to ensure you are in good health.
During a full physical exam, your doctor will likely listen to your lungs and heart, look in your eyes, ears, and nose, and visually inspect your general appearance.
If you have specific symptoms or concerns, the doctor may adjust the physical check up to address the areas of concern.
During an annual exam, your doctor will order lab tests to evaluate your overall health.
These lab tests will typically measure your blood levels, evaluate electrolyte levels, and test your cholesterol.
These lab tests may include urine samples or pap smears for women.
If you have specific health concerns or have a health condition in your history, your doctor may order additional testing to evaluate specific concerns.
Why are Annual Physicals Recommended?
There are several reasons that annual physical exams are recommended.
Annual exams provide your doctor with a baseline record of your health. This makes it easier for any changes to be quickly detected and addressed.
Annual physical exams are not intended to treat specific illnesses, but to prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place.
Annual exams also provide you with important feedback about your health.
Perhaps you’ve gained a few pounds over the last year without realizing it, or maybe you’ve developed some symptoms that indicate you need more exercise in your routine.
No one likes being told they need to change their lifestyle to benefit their health.
But, knowing what changes to make will promote your health earlier and allow you to make small changes.
These small changes can have a big effect on your long-term health and life expectancy.
Who Should Get an Annual Physical?
Those who are at risk for health problems or who already have existing health concerns should always have their annual physical exam.
Some groups who are more at risk may even be recommend by their doctors to have more frequent medical exams.
Some of the risk factors that make annual physicals more important include:
As we age, our risk of many health conditions increases.
While there is no specific age cutoff for when annual physicals become more necessary, those who are older should strongly consider the benefits that an annual physical will bring in detecting diseases and allowing your doctor to intervene early if you do develop health problems.
- Disease Risk Factors
If you are at risk for certain diseases because you have a family history of a certain condition or because you have other risk factors, such as a history of medical problems yourself, then an annual exam is strongly recommended.
The annual exam will help your doctor to monitor your risk factors and may help you to avoid serious health problems later in life.
While at-risk groups should definitely have yearly physical exams, everyone should consider having an annual checkup.
Many insurances will completely cover the physical exam cost because of the positive impact this preventative visit can have on your health.
Free physical exams may be available through certain organizations or doctor’s offices, as well.
Everyone is encouraged to have an annual physical, because disease and health problems can start at any age.
Where to Get an Annual Physical ExamPrimary care doctors are the best places to get annual exams.
A primary care doctor provides all of your basic healthcare needs and serves as a centralized source of information if you need specialized treatment later in life.
Finding the best primary care doctor can be difficult, and you should research your options carefully before making such an important decision.
Want to learn more about annual physical exams in Riverview?
Noorani Medical Center has an extensive background with providing preventative care to patients.
We encourage you to call and schedule an appointment today!