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Physically Fit

Your anual exam why it is so important and what to expect

By David Buice

To maintain good health, you need help, and that’s why the CDC recommends a yearly physical examination — also called a wellness visit — with your primary care physician. During these visits, your physician can find issues that could potentially affect your health. Early detection is essential in treating disease, and for patients with chronic health problems, like diabetes or hypertension, regular checkups help you and your doctor manage these conditions.

These are some of the conversations and procedures you’ll have during your annual physical. When finished, congratulate yourself because you’ve taken a major step toward good health during the coming year.

Check your vital signs. This part involves recording your temperature, blood pressure, and heart and respiration rates to establish a baseline for your overall wellness.

Perform a physical exam. A visual inspection of your eyes, ears, and throat will help spot any potential issues. Lightly touching your abdomen and back are also part of the physical exam.

Update your vaccines. Depending on your age, you may need a new vaccine or booster shot.

Ensure needed screenings. You may need a blood test, bone density test, colonoscopy, or other screenings. Your physician will let you know what is required and how to coordinate these tests.

Discuss new preventive and treatment options. As we age, our health needs change, and a yearly physical brings your care up to date.

Manage medications. Your physician will make sure your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and supplements don’t interact and create potentially dangerous side effects.

Provide valuable guidance. Your doctor can provide information and motivation to lose weight, exercise regularly, or stop smoking, among others.

Testing Knowledge Depending on your gender and age, your physician may recommend more than the basic screenings and tests during your annual visit.

For Women MAMMOGRAM – The American Cancer Society recommends a yearly mammogram for women ages 45 to 54 and screening every two years for women over age 55.

PAP SMEAR – Screening for cervical cancer should begin at age 21. Additional screenings are recommended every three years for women with healthy immune systems.

CHOLESTEROL TEST – This should begin for most women at age 45 but as early as age 20 for those with a genetic predisposition for diabetes or heart disease.

OSTEOPOROSIS SCREENING – Bone density screenings should begin around age 65 but perhaps sooner due to underlying medical conditions such as asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and lupus.

For Men CHOLESTEROL TEST – Most men, should begin this screening at age 35, sooner if they have a genetic predisposition for diabetes or heart disease.

PROSTATE SCREENING – Recommended for some men starting at age 50, earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM SCREENING – This is a one-time ultrasound screening recommended for men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked.

For Women and Men COLON CANCER TEST – This test usually begins around age 50 but possibly earlier depending on personal health conditions and family history.

LUNG CANCER SCREENING – An annual low-dose CT scan is recommended for those ages 55 to 80 who are smokers or have smoked for a significant period of time.

DIABETES – If you have a family history of diabetes or risk factors such as being overweight or having high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you should be screened for diabetes.

If your doctor believes a part of your body needs special examination, you may receive a focused physical exam in which they look closely at that area to confirm their suspected diagnosis.


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