The value of getting an annual physical exam may surprise you. From diagnosing a potentially life-threatening condition in its early stages to establishing your health goals, an annual visit with your primary care doctor is more important than you might think.
“The annual visit can be viewed as a form of benchmarking and preventive monitoring,” says Lon Manson, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic, Rancho Bernardo. “It allows you and your doctor to review all the aspects of your health and develop your personalized health plan.”
Your annual physical is an opportunity to:
Your routine physical will help establish a baseline, including risk factors that will help you and your doctor make effective health care decisions and establish a foundation for your individualized health plan.
You and your doctor can review any changes that have occurred over the past year and discuss healthy lifestyle choices. For instance, monitoring blood pressure and weight can help prevent heart disease.
“Your primary care physician is your partner in keeping you healthy,” says Dr. Manson. “If you’ve gained unhealthy pounds, we can look at why that might be and make adjustments to diet and exercise, or discuss stress management techniques that can help.”
Your doctor will also let you know what screenings you need, such as a mammogram, colonoscopy or a bone density screening — important diagnostic tools for prevention of diseases such as cancer and osteoporosis.
A good doctor will tailor the annual physical to you and your health goals.
“The most important part of the visit is the strengthening of the doctor-patient relationship,” says Yulia Okhotina, MD, an internal medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley. “The better your doctor knows you, the better he or she can care for you and the easier it is to detect something that may need further evaluation.”
Immunizations are not just for children.
“Many of us aren’t getting the protection we need,” says Dr. Okhotina. “Some adult vaccines are boosters, building your immunity, and others protect against diseases that are more common in adults than in children.”
Key adult vaccines are the flu shot, shingles vaccine, a booster to ward off tetanus and diphtheria, and the pneumococcal vaccine. Check with your doctor to find out which vaccines you may need.
It’s important to review your medications with your physician, including over-the-counter items and supplements, to make sure you are treating medical issues effectively.
The bottom line is that when it comes to your health, follow Benjamin Franklin’s axiom that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and schedule an annual physical with your primary care doctor.