Should I get an annual checkup?

Should I get an annual checkup?

An annual checkup, or annual physical, assesses your overall health and can help identify potential issues before they become a problem.

Many primary care providers recommend a regular physical exam, regardless of a person’s age. The appointment emphasizes good health, with the opportunity to discuss any preventative health screenings that may be needed. It also allows patients to voice their questions or concerns related to their personal health, and helps foster a relationship between the patient and provider.

An annual exam often is tailored to the patient and may vary among healthcare providers as to how it is performed. However, the basis of the exam is the same. It usually consists of the following regardless of age or gender. (Note that an annual checkup may include other exams specific to men and women.)

Medical history

This includes a review of a person’s overall health, including lifestyle and habits. This can include a discussion about diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol use, vaccination status, medications, or any recent surgeries.

Vital signs

This involves measuring blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature.

General appearance

Healthcare providers often observe a person’s appearance for signs of any potential health conditions. This can include nervous system functions, such as speech, walking, standing, and cognitive ability.

Physical exam

This includes examining the eyes, ears, nose, throat, abdomen, skin, hair, and nails. Height and weight are also measured. The provider may perform a clinical breast exam and pelvic exam for women, and a genital and prostate exam for men.

Lab tests

Routine lab tests may be ordered, including a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel (sugar level, kidney function, liver function, etc.), and lipid panel (cholesterol test).

A primary goal of these visits is to create a baseline of health, which can be a valuable reference point for later when the patient is not well. This includes physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.