The annual physical, or physical examination, is a regular appointment during which a medical professional evaluates your overall health. Think of it like getting your car’s oil changed — you change that out every 3000-5000 miles, so why not get your body checked once a year? As if that’s not enough, physicals are generally free, thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act. You may think that skipping this appointment won’t do any harm, but think again:
Do you know your vital signs?
Your vital signs are things like blood pressure, heart rate, blood cell count, urine analysis, etc (Elite Internal Medicine). Changes in these are often some of the first indicators that something is different in your body. Having them checked regularly not only establishes a baseline of what is normal for you, but it also clues your internal medicine doctor in to changes that might need further attention.
What is a BMI?
Your BMI is a measure of what you weigh for how tall you are. When you grow wider instead of taller this will be reflected in your BMI and might be the only outside evidence of a health condition going on inside your body, such as obesity. Your doctor can track this for you and let you know the ideal range to be in. However it should be noted that BMI is not always an accurate measure of health — this is particularly true of individuals with more or less muscle than average.
Brain health is important, too
Your body may be fine, but how is your mental health? Although this may be a taboo subject for some, assessing your mental health is incredibly important to creating an accurate portrait of your overall health. While general practitioners are hardly therapists, it’s still important to talk to your them about different things you may be experiencing (ex: depression, forgetfulness, etc.) so they can make recommendations for action. Be honest with your doctor, and they will be more helpful to you.
There are certain tests, like mammograms and osteoporosis screening exams, that your doctor needs to run as you age because after a certain point the cells in your body start changing and you are at a higher risk for severe diseases. Attending annual physicals make sure that you stay up-to-date on these tests.
Watch for warning signs
Like aging, family history is a key indicator for diseases that are more like to affect you. Did your grandfather die of heart disease? Was your mother diagnosed with breast cancer? Many diseases, including cancer, have a genetic component to them. Knowing what health concerns are in your family and discussing risk factors can help prevent these diseases from developing, or at least catch them early.
Medicine is constantly improving
Healthcare is always changing, and as new science emerges so do new recommendations. An appointment with your doctor is one of the best ways to keep up with these changes. Having at least annual contact with you doctor also presents an excellent opportunity to ask any pressing questions and get answers from a professional.