Making the Most of Your Annual Physical Exam

doctor consultation

Healthcare professionals recommend that people go for a physical checkup at least once a year. We all bring our cars to an auto shop for the occasional tune-up, and annual physical exams work the same way. They are but one component of a comprehensive wellness routine.

Annual checkups serve two purposes. The first is to ensure that patients have an updated health record that medical doctors can use as a barometer of overall health. After a checkup is performed, they can then compare the current and previous years’ results. The second is to check for early signs of diseases and any other conditions. Many diseases, if caught early, are easier to diagnose and treat.

However, some people feel that annual checkups are unnecessary, but there’s no better way to take control of your health. If you want to get the most out of your annual physical, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few things you need to remember so you can get the most out of your health screening.

Your appointments are nonnegotiable

Healthcare is geared toward primary or proactive care. In an ideal world, we all try our best to keep our minds and bodies as strong and healthy as possible through early intervention, regular exercise, and a balanced diet. However, many people only seek medical help when a problem has occurred and the symptoms have become too severe to ignore, also known as reactive care.

The annual physical exam falls under proactive medicine and is an avenue for you to discuss wellness techniques with your primary care provider. It’s not a chore that you can cancel if something more urgent comes up. Treat your appointment dates as non-negotiable if you want to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Bring detailed notes to your checkup

Medical doctors can’t provide answers or make informed decisions with incomplete information. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve been going to the same hospital for years as they have your complete medical history. But if you’re switching healthcare providers or seeing a specialist, you will need to bring your medical information with you.

Make it a point to ask for copies of your complete medical records from your primary care provider. This includes your past hospitalizations and emergency room visits, recent tests and lab work, and immunization records. You also might want to write down any new complaints between your last checkup and your upcoming one.

Medical history isn’t limited to your personal history, however. You also need to take into account your entire family’s medical history, especially if there are certain conditions common in your bloodlines such as cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Voice your concerns

doctor and patient

Your annual checkup will be more productive if you state your concerns and your goals at the get-go. Your primary care provider can then work around your concerns and give you the results you want.

The purpose of a general physical exam is to check the current state of your body, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t voice other concerns as well. If you want to lose weight or if you’re experiencing burnout, tell the doctor right away, so they can give the necessary medical advice. Otherwise, your problems will only get worse.

Make a list of all your medications

If you have prescriptions from multiple doctors, you need to make a list of all your medications so that your primary care provider is aware of all the drugs you’re taking. This includes all maintenance and over-the-counter drugs you regularly take, such as paracetamol for fever and ibuprofen for muscle pain.

This applies to your vitamins and supplements as well. You might not consider supplements as real medicine, but they often contain active ingredients that might interfere with other medications such as pain relievers and antidepressants.

Be honest

A doctor’s visit is one of the worst times to lie about your habits. Primary care providers need to see the full picture to make informed decisions, and if you regularly drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, or use illicit drugs, you need to tell them during your annual exam. You’re protected by physician-patient privilege, and your communications cannot be used in court.

Your annual physical exam is your first line of protection against illness and disease. Regular exercise and a healthy diet keep your body fit, but you’ll have no way of checking your body’s condition unless you see a medical professional. Some problems, if caught early, can be managed or cured with little difficulty.

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