One of the most important ingredients to health and wellness is an annual physical exam. Annual physical exams are a vital, proactive, preventative way to spot medical issues at an early stage. They also create space to give you peace of mind about your health by talking with a doctor about any concerns you may have.
Putting off an annual physical exam is easy to do—life is busy, and a physical exam feels optional—but, just like putting off an oil change for your car, delaying an annual physical exam only creates complications down the line.
Annual physical exams are quick, easy, non-invasive, and important. Here are six things you can expect to happen at your next annual physical exam.
Blood Pressure Check
A standard issue element of every annual physical exam is a blood pressure check. A healthy reading is when the systolic (top number) is less than 120, and the diastolic (bottom number) less than 80. If your results fall outside this range your doctor may order tests that look for possible causes, such as type 2 diabetes.
Weight and Height Measurements
One of the core measurements for determining your health is the body mass index (BMI). BMI uses your height and weight to determine whether you need to shed some pounds to benefit your long term health. Obesity can lead to various health problems, and monitoring your BMI is an important part of your annual physical exam. One common procedure with men is to measure the waist size. A stomach larger than 40 inches could potentially increase your chances of heart disease, as well as diabetes.
There are several different cancer-related tests your doctor might be interested in running, especially at certain age markers. For instance, once you turn 50 your annual physical exam may test your stool and rectum for early signs of colon or rectal cancer. A doctor may perform a breast exam on women over the age of 40, and men over the age of 40 may be tested for an enlarged prostate. It’s also possible your doctor might decide to test for skin cancer. This would occur via a full body skin exam.
One common part of an annual physical exam, especially for men over 35 years old and women over 45, is a blood sample to test your cholesterol. For patients whose families have a history of heart disease, monitoring could begin as early as your twenties. The American Diabetes Association suggests diabetes testing for all patients over 45, but your doctor may want to start this earlier, depending on what he or she observes. For instance, there are some potential pre-diabetic symptoms—high blood pressure or chronic urination—that may lead your doctor to screen for diabetes.
One of the common ailments in men over the age of 65 is an abdominal aortic aneurysm. This is a medical term describing the weakening of the main artery that passes through the stomach. If this artery ruptures, it can be fatal, which is why your doctor may choose to order an ultrasound, examining whether you’re at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Women over the age of 65 may be screened for osteoporosis at their annual physical exam, though men can also request this. For younger women, an annual checkup is an opportunity to discuss reproductive topics with their doctors such as concerns or questions about family planning, or birth control.
Advice Regarding a Healthy Lifestyle
Your annual physical exam is a time when your doctor will ask you questions about your lifestyle. This is an important time to be transparent with your physician, and move toward lifelong health and wellness. Your doctor might ask about how much you drink, and how often. She may ask questions about whether you smoke, use drugs, or are practicing safe sex. In recent years, doctors have begun asking more frequently about depression, as your mental health is a key part of your holistic health and happiness. During these conversations, make sure to tell your doctor about any medicines you take, including supplements and over-the-counter drugs.
Your doctor is on your side and working with you to live a long, healthy, fulfilled life. Full transparency during your annual physical exam is a vital step toward that.
Annual physical exams are part of your long term wellness, and you don’t even need to schedule one! At TrustCare, we offer annual wellness exams with no appointment needed. Stop in at a location near you. (We recommend that you stop by in the morning and, for more accurate lab results, be sure to withhold food and fluids after midnight prior to your exam.)