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:
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:
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.
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