The Annual Physical Exam. Is It Really Necessary?

We’re told we need to do it once a year, but what’s the annual physical exam about and why do we need it?

The yearly exam may be called a physical or a wellness or preventative exam. It involves meeting with your primary care provider to review your current health.

By scheduling your exam annually, even if you feel healthy, your provider will be able to keep your medical records up to date. If a medical problem develops, you’ll be able to catch it earlier, if you haven’t already noticed a problem. And you can ask questions you may have.

By having an annual physical, you’ll:

  • Increase your chances of finding serious problems early so your provider can treat them right away.
  • Have the opportunity to ask your provider questions and discuss health issues that concern you.
  • Create a valuable record of key health measurements, such as your blood pressure, pulse rate, temperature, height, weight and waist size. 

During the exam, you and your provider will discuss and update your medical records with information about your past treatments and surgeries, your personal and family medical history. You’ll review your allergies, too.

You and your provider will review your over-the-counter and prescription medications, along with supplement and vitamins, to make sure they’re working well together for you..

Your provider will want to be familiar with your lifestyle — your diet, exercise habits and if you smoke or drink. 

Because your annual physical may focus on prevention and wellness topics, a separate visit may be needed if you have concerns that you would like to address with your provider.

Expect the exam to include a check of your abdomen, limbs, head and neck, heart, lungs, skin and the inside your mouth. Your provider will be looking for tell tale signs of a host of medical problems.

Exams for women may include:

Exams for men may include:

  • Penis and testicular exam
  • Prostate exam
  • Hernia exam

If specific health concerns arise, a follow-up appointment may be needed. Depending on your age and sex, along with information gathered during your exam, your provider may recommend lab work, X-rays or other testing. Screenings may be recommended for risks such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. A referral for counseling may be appropriate for some conditions.

Any testing suggested will be based on recommendations from the United States Preventative Services Taskforce. It provides evidence-based recommendations for screenings, counseling services and preventive medications aimed to help keep Americans healthy.

Your health care provider can give you guidance on an exam schedule that works best for you.

If you need a primary care provider, you may search online for a provider. It’s not too late to arrange for your annual physical exam.

Find more helpful information about your health on the Aurora Health Care Facebook page

Meet the Author

Paula Carlton, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at Aurora Health Center in West Bend, WI.

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The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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