Many adults might think that an annual physical exam is unnecessary, especially if they are in good health and aren’t noticing signs and symptoms of disease. About one-fifth of US adults take advantage of the opportunity to get an annual exam, and yet it’s one of the most important steps in taking take charge of your health and wellness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six in ten adults have a chronic disease and four in ten adults have two or more, many of them not even knowing it.
The annual checkup (also called annual wellness visit or yearly exam) with your primary care provider (PCP) is an appointment to check in on your overall health and wellness. It’s an opportunity to discuss important changes in your health, ask questions about family risk or history, discuss and/or perform recommended screenings and testing, and collaborate on next steps for overall goals.
Having open communication with your doctor can help you be at your best health. He or she can do a better job of spotting issues and recommending treatments for you when you discuss your health together.
What happens at an annual checkup?
You and your doctor will discuss your health and develop a personalized care plan. This is your opportunity to ask questions and voice any health concerns. Your doctor may also:
- Assess your height, weight, blood pressure, and other routine measurements.
- Update your health record. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your current health status, medical history, and other topics.
- Discuss preventive care screenings you should be getting. You may even be able to get them during your visit.
- Give you additional resources. This could include information on nutrition, exercise, counseling, and more.
How can you prepare for your annual checkup?
- Call your provider and schedule a day and time that works best for you.
- Bring a list of all current medications you are taking and dose.
- Bring a record of anything that has changed since your last visit including problems or symptoms, illness or injuries, surgeries, etc. If you are seeing a new doctor bring a medical history.
- Write down questions you have for your doctor ahead of time, so you remember to discuss what’s most important to you.
- Be prepared to discuss questions you may have if a new diagnosis is made, changes in your medications, or
The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when taking an active role in your health and wellness. Most health plans cover the annual exam, so the financial burden is low and the rewards high, especially when something is caught early.
Bottom line, being in the know about your health and wellness can help you understand long term risks and actions to take to maintain your health and a high quality of life as you age.