by Dr. Alexis Peraino, Board Certified Internist and AMEC Member
Going once a year for your physical exam is imperative to help prevent and detect early disease. I recommend it to all my patients, especially when they feel well and hesitate to come in. An annual physical is an essential part of preventive medicine and a priceless investment in your health. Let’s review why:
Recommending Lifestyle Adjustments:
Reviewing your lifestyle habits helps your physician paint a picture of your risk of disease and determine what type of screenings are important for you in order to personalize your care and guide you to adopt new healthy habits. Our goal is to keep you healthy no matter what your habits might be. For example, in patients who previously smoked cigarettes, we might consider lung screening. In patients who vape, we might provide education on the risks of vaping and options for cessation. By talking with patients about their exercise or dietary habits, we can encourage, educate, and provide additional support to help you achieve your health goals.
Reviewing New Symptoms:
Your physician will ask you about symptoms in all the different organ systems to identify anything that might be bothering you or that you might not have thought of mentioning before in order to prevent worsening symptoms and complications. For example, a patient with symptoms of headache and visual changes might need an eye exam. Patients with symptoms of persistent heartburn, who are using over-the-counter treatments quite often, might need additional therapy or evaluation. Without the chance to ask you about how you feel, we can’t help to identify symptoms and treat them early.
Updating Your Medical and Family History:
Your healthcare providers need to be up-to-date with any recent surgery or medication that you may have started. This helps them coordinate your care, prevent drug interactions with previous medications or revise your prescriptions. It is important to disclose any supplements and vitamins that you might be taking as well because they can interact with medications or impact lab results.
Screening for signs of disease, in particular checking your blood pressure, is crucial since elevated blood pressure, or hypertension, can occur in patients who feel well and have no symptoms. When untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, so it matters to identify it early to prevent long-term complications. Lastly, completing your age-appropriate screenings is necessary for disease prevention and early detection. We recommend cervical, breast, colon, and prostate screenings based on your age or risk factors. Vaccine recommendations are also based on age, time of year, or risk factors, as are many other lab screenings, such as cholesterol levels or diabetes and thyroid screenings.
So, don’t put off that annual exam any longer; make an appointment today! Your doctor wants to see you when you feel well so they can keep you healthy and take better care of you when you are ill. Staying fit, eating well, and preventing disease all go hand-in-hand, and the best way to do that is to partner with your doctor every year to ensure you are getting the best care possible.