The holiday season is in full swing. You’ve probably got a list a mile long of things to do, including finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list.
But what are you getting yourself this year? Whether you’ve been naughty or nice, you deserve the gift that will keep you happy and healthy for years to come: an annual physical.
Why an Annual Physical Matters
Sure, an annual exam isn’t something you can wrap with a bow and put under the tree. But it’s truly the best gift. Getting a physical could give you even more holiday seasons ahead, which ultimately is a gift to all your family and friends, too.
The older you get, the more important it is to see your medical provider annually. Even those with perfect nutrition habits and a regimented workout schedule are still susceptible to age-related illnesses.
If you have a family history of cancer, heart disease, or other medical issues, your risk of experiencing similar medical conditions increases. Annual physicals are the best way to stay ahead of any health problems and treat those that do occur.
Benefits of an Annual Exam
Even those who are in excellent health should have an annual physical. There are many benefits of visiting your healthcare provider at least once a year, including:
- Creating a baseline for your labs, vital signs, and other medical measurements. If you experience a health-related issue in the future, having those baselines can make diagnosis and treatment decisions much easier.
- Creating and maintaining a relationship with your provider. You’ll get to know your doctor, and they will get to know you. Over time, you’ll both develop trust, which leads to better communication should a medical issue arise.
- Screening, prevention, and early intervention for illnesses like heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other issues. Early detection and intervention could literally be lifesaving.
- Updating your medical records, including any new or worsening health issues, medications, family medical history, or allergies. Keeping this record updated means better and more comprehensive medical treatment moving forward.
- Assessing your overall health and creating a plan to either improve or maintain your well-being.
What’s Included in an Annual Physical?
Your annual physical will vary depending on your age, previous medical conditions, family history, and various other factors.
Your visit will likely include:
- Height and weight measurements
- Blood pressure
- Blood work and/or urinalysis to check blood sugar, cholesterol, and other factors
- A physical exam by your doctor, checking your eyes, ears, throat, nose, lungs, and other vital functions
- Discussions about vaccinations, medications, and other health-related concerns
Depending on your age and family history, your doctor might also suggest additional screenings, like a mammogram, gynecological exam and pap smear, EKG, colonoscopy, or another diagnostic test. These tests can reveal illnesses long before symptoms appear, and many health conditions can be treated effectively when caught early.
Learn more about breast cancer screening here.
How You Can Prepare
As your annual exam approaches, start writing down any questions or concerns you want to discuss with your doctor. Don’t wait until the day of the appointment; you’re sure to forget what you wanted to ask!
If your insurance information has changed, be sure you bring your insurance information along as well.
You can also make the most of your time by bringing along a detailed list of everything you’re taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins or supplements. Having your updated family health history and a list of any medical procedures or concerns you’ve experienced since your last visit will make the appointment run smoothly.
If you have multiple questions or concerns, rank them in order of importance. Your visit should provide enough time to address them all, but some medical practices limit their visits to 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have enough time to cover everything in one visit, start with the most pressing concerns, then schedule another appointment to address the rest.
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of health.