A physical exam is an essential part of your healthcare routine. Many primary care physicians recommend seeing your doctor for an annual physical exam, regardless of age or health. It lets you build a relationship with your physician before something terrible happens. When there is a crisis, they will already have your medical information available for whatever healthcare provider you see.
There are several reasons an annual physical is a good idea. A physical exam is an opportunity to check up on your health and ask your doctor any nagging questions that aren’t urgent enough for their own appointment. Your doctor can check for new diseases and potentially prevent them from worsening. Many health concerns also go unchecked, leading to severe complications and life-threatening problems. Your doctor can look at your vital signs and determine whether they fall within healthy ranges before much more severe problems arise. Serious conditions don’t always present with obvious symptoms, and early intervention can be life-saving.
During the exam, your doctor may ask questions about your diet, level of exercise, and whether you smoke. Listing allergies, present and past diseases, and taking your family’s medical history are commonly a part of the exam. They may also ask about any significant changes in your life, like a new job. Stress can make a substantial impact on your physical health, so be sure to tell your doctor if there are unique stressors such as losing a loved one. They can help you manage your mental health and provide referrals to specialists.
To get the most out of your checkup, take time to prepare before meeting with your doctor. Write down all the questions about your health, even if they seem innocuous. Bring a list of medications, as well as any over-the-counter pills and vitamins you take, as these could affect your treatment options. Your doctor can also ensure you’re taking the right amount and adjust prescriptions accordingly.
Recommendations vary between physicians, but according to the Cleveland Clinic, adults 40 and over should have a physical exam every year, while healthy individuals in their 20s and 30s should come at least every two years.