View All Articles

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Annual Physical

Life gets so busy that it’s easy to forget to schedule your annual physical. And you’re healthy, so why bother – right? That’s dangerous thinking. Regular checkups with your doctor are important to prevent and detect chronic illness. 

Gone are the days when you would only see your doctor if you’re sick or have a chronic illness. Known as “preventive medicine,” checkups give you and your doctor the opportunity to assess your lifestyle habits, discuss any concerns you have and learn how to stay healthy.  

Regular Checkup Benefits 

If you’re healthy, you may wonder why you need to see you doctor for an annual visit. Regular checkups offer several benefits, including: 

  • Detecting life-threatening health issues early for better treatment and outcomes.

  • Monitoring existing health conditions to lower the risk of complications and worsening symptoms.

  • Learning new positive lifestyle habits to keep you healthy longer.

  • Staying current on screening tests and vaccinations.

  • Treating and monitoring existing health conditions.

  • Developing and maintaining a positive relationship with your primary care physician. 

Regular checkups can help your doctor prevent, detect and treat some chronic illnesses, such as: 

  • Anemia

  • Arthritis

  • Diabetes

  • Depression

  • Hypertension

  • Obesity 

Your age and current health status will help you determine how often to have routine checkups. While the frequency is up to you and your doctor, recommendations are generally: 

  • Once a year if you are under 50 and in good health

  • Twice a year if you are 50 or older

  • Three to four times a year if you have a chronic disease, such as diabetes

Your doctor may recommend more or less time between your visits based on your current health status, screening test results and your risk factors for developing chronic conditions.

What To Expect

Regular checkups give you and your doctor an opportunity to get to know each other and build a positive rapport. This helps your doctor understand your lifestyle so they can identify any potential risk factors for developing certain health conditions and detect any potential health conditions early on.

Regular physicals for adults typically include:

  • Review of your personal and family health history

  • Blood pressure check

  • Full body examination

  • Discussion about mental health to screen for depression, anxiety and other conditions

  • Lab tests like a blood chemistry panel and complete blood count

  • Required immunizations/boosters

  • A review of medications you are taking

Your doctor will also ask about your alcohol and tobacco use, along with reviewing your vaccination history and results from your past screening tests. Your doctor also might schedule screening tests, including:

  • Diabetes, particularly if you are at risk or have a family history of the condition

  • Pap smear

  • Mammogram

  • Colonoscopy, typically starting at age 50; earlier if you have a family history

  • Hepatitis C

  • HIV

  • Obesity/Body Mass Index (BMI)

  • Prostate examination

How To Prepare For Your Checkup

Coming prepared for your annual physical can help you get the most out of your visit. A few things you can do to prepare for the visit include: 

  • Make a list of topics you want to discuss with your doctor. This could include updates about your health since your last visit, any questions you have for your doctor and side effects of any medications you are currently taking. 

  • Bring a family member or friend. Your support person can help you remember what was discussed in the appointment and can take notes of the conversation. If your relative or friend cannot attend in person, you can ask your doctor if they can attend the appointment virtually.

  • Bring a list of the current medications you are taking. Include any vitamins, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements and herbal remedies you are using. Your doctor may ask you to bring in your prescription medications.

  • Ask for special accommodations. Call your doctor’s office ahead of time if you have any requests for special accommodations, such as an interpreter, or if you need a wheelchair upon arrival. 

  • Be honest with your doctor. Open communication with your doctor is important — even when it comes to subjects that may be uncomfortable to talk about, such as depression, sexual issues and drug use. Frank conversations help your doctor provide the best care possible. 

If you are seeing a new doctor, bring your old medical records — including vaccination history, family health history and previous screening test results.


Related Articles