Do you really need an annual physical?

Do you really need an annual physical
It’s that time again. You need to schedule your annual physical with your doctor or other primary care provider. Maybe you dread the poking, prodding, and tests. Perhaps it’s the inconvenience of scheduling an appointment and taking time off work to attend that appointment. Whatever your reasons, going to your annual physical can be difficult and even annoying. Let’s talk about why an annual physical can help keep you in tip-top physical health and how you can be ready to use it to improve your health.

Why is an annual physical important?

Although your yearly physical can feel like a pain, it’s actually an important part of keeping yourself healthy. Here’s why your annual physical is important.

  • Prevention. You can use an annual physical to prevent health conditions from becoming large problems. Your healthcare provider may preform tests that will screen for potential health problems. These tests might include:
    • Mammogram
    • Colonoscopy
    • Blood tests 
    • Urinalysis
    • Breast and pelvic exams
    • Testicular, penile, hernia, and prostate exams
    • General exam (vitals such as blood pressure, heart and respiration rates, an examination of your skin, as well as examining your general health, such as diet, physical activity and sleep habits.)
  • Develop a relationship with your healthcare provider. Having a positive relationship with your provider can be invaluable when health concerns arise. Your annual physical is your chance to discuss any health concerns or questions and develop that relationship. It’s also important to note that any primary care provider can provide an annual physical – those providers include a family medicine physician, internal medicine physician or advanced practice provider like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.

RELATED: Why you need a primary care physician.

Prepare for your physical

Once a year you have the opportunity to have a conversation with your provider. Make it count by being prepared. Use these ideas to get ready for your next yearly physical with your provider.

  • Review your medical history. Do you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, or cancer? Has someone in your family developed a new condition that you may be genetically inclined to develop as well? Your doctor should know. Letting your provider know about these things will help them advise you on how to best safeguard your health.
  • Prepare for testing and/or vaccinations. When you make an appointment for your yearly physical, ask your provider if you are due for any upcoming tests or vaccinations. It’s helpful to know if you are due for a mammogram or Pap smear before you show up in the office. 
  • Make a list of questions. It can be difficult to remember everything you want to ask your provider while you're sitting on the exam table without your pants. Be sure to discuss things like changes in your body, how you feel, and your mental health. You should also discuss any concerns you might have about current medical conditions. Leave enough space on your paper to write down your provider’s answers as needed. 
  • Be ready to discuss future events. Are you planning on losing weight? Getting pregnant? Quitting smoking? If you have upcoming health “events” now is the time to get your provider's opinion and perspective on how you can be successful.

Your annual physical is an important time to discuss your health with your healthcare provider. Your physical can help rule out health conditions, and prepare you to prevent conditions that may arise because of your family health history. Being prepared for your yearly exam will help you take advantage of the time with your provider. It doesn’t need to be a scary appointment.