When was the last time you had a physical exam? Chances are if you’re reading this to find out more about them, it’s likely been a while. Whether you’re intimidated by doctors or you just avoid them because you’re feeling fine, it’s a good idea to know what an annual physical exam entails and schedule one.
Overview of Annual Physical Exams
There isn’t one specific formula that all medical providers follow when conducting an annual physical exam. Generally speaking, the doctor will ask about your medical history and listen to your concerns, if any, about ailments. They will then take your vital signs and conduct simple exams, as explained below.
Purpose of a Physical Exam
The purpose of a physical exam is to identify any health issues and update immunizations. They also offer an opportunity to establish a relationship with your primary care physician.
What to Expect at Your Annual Physical Exam
Examinations will vary depending on several factors: The patient’s age, physical condition, medical history, weight, and gender. However, anyone undergoing a physical exam can expect the following:
- Blood pressure check. This type of testing is essential, as it measures a patient’s risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, kidney disease, or a heart attack. Some risk factors for high blood pressure include being overweight or obese, having a sedentary lifestyle, drinking too much alcohol, consuming too much sodium, or not eating enough fruits and vegetables. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor can help you develop a healthier lifestyle to address the issue and prevent health complications.
- Weight check. Although this is not typically anyone’s favorite part of the exam, knowing how much you weigh can help your doctor calculate your body mass index (BMI). This is a tool used to determine whether a patient is at a healthy weight. To calculate it, the doctor will take your weight in kilograms and divide it by the square of your height. To keep it simple, most doctors use a chart or a BMI calculator. If the BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, the patient is considered to be at a healthy weight. A BMI of 25 and 29.9 means the patient is overweight, and a patient with a BMI over 30 is considered obese, medically speaking.
- Heart exam. This consists of the doctor listening to your heartbeat through a stethoscope. This simple process can help the doctor determine whether or not there is an irregular heartbeat or heart murmur.
- Mouth and neck exam. Oral health can reveal a lot about a patient’s overall health. It’s very easy for bacteria to enter the bloodstream through the mouth. Your doctor will look at your tonsils, inside your ears, and nose, and check your neck for lumps or bumps which could indicate a thyroid issue.
- Cancer screenings. Since there are so many different types of cancer, it’s impossible to screen for each one. However, for women over 40, an annual exam will include a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. Men will be screened for prostate cancer. Both men and women may also have a rectal exam to screen for colorectal cancer.
- Observation of physical appearance. There is a lot of medical information a doctor can obtain by simply observing a patient’s weight, the way they walk, whether they become short of breath easily, whether they have trouble getting up from a sitting position, and whether the skin has a worrisome hue, rash, or moles. If the physician feels that something about the patient’s appearance is cause for concern, he or she will order additional tests.
Depending on the doctor’s observations, they may ask additional questions about lifestyle (e.g. how often you exercise, whether you smoke, floss your teeth, wear sunscreen), sexual history (if you mention symptoms that indicate a sexually transmitted disease) or about past surgeries, vaccines, and eating habits. Based on your answers, the doctor may recommend blood tests or additional cancer screenings.
How to Prepare for an Annual Physical Exam
Once you’ve scheduled a physical exam, sit down with a notebook and list the following:
- Medical history
- Names of all your current doctors
- Any symptoms you may be experiencing
- Concerns about depression, anxiety, or mental health
- Questions about specific health issues
In addition, wear comfortable, easy to remove clothing, since you’ll have to change into a hospital gown.
24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas
If you’re due for an annual physical exam, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.
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