How Important Can an Annual Check Up Really Be?
When you feel healthy, it is understandable to think you do not need to schedule a routine check up with your primary care doctor. Many even argue that annual exams are no longer necessary. When considering foundational, preventative, ongoing healthcare, however, annual physicals provide important steps towards staying healthy. Here are just a few reasons why making time to see your primary care physician should be done annually.
- Maintaining a relationship with your doctor. You and your primary care physician are partners invested in keeping you healthy. “Well visits” are an opportunity to focus on your overall health, instead of a specific illness or injury many “sick visits” tend to. Annual exams allow you and your doctor to address concerns or answer questions about preventative care, medications, or any other health issues you feel you should bring up.
- Keeping your medical records current. During the course of a year a lot can happen. Changes in marital status, prescription medication and allergies are just a few changes that could affect your health and who is privy to your medical information. If your social history has changed (e.g. smoking or alcohol habits, sexual activity, etc.), you may need to discuss certain treatment or procedural options with your physician.
- Discover any red flags. Routine check-ups may seem mundane, but these exams allow physicians to recognize abnormalities in your physical health. Does your heartbeat have irregularities it once didn’t? Does your sudden lack of sleep signal something more serious? Does the new nerve pain in your foot warrant further treatment? When your doctor notices red flags during your annual visit, you and your doctor can discuss follow-ups and further referral options together.
- Early intervention. When your doctor notices an issue with your health, you can start intervention measures that much earlier. For example, treatments for cancer are that much more effective the earlier you start.
- Update your vaccines. Yep, you still need vaccines even though you aren’t a kid anymore. Recommended immunizations for adults include the Tdap vaccine (for pregnant women every pregnancy, as well as boosters for adults), the flu vaccine, and the shingles vaccine if you are 60 and older. If you are under 26 years old, your doctor may recommend the HPV vaccine, and if you are a smoker over 65 years old, your doctor may recommend the pneumonia vaccine. In every immunization case, your doctor will review your vaccination history and risk factors as you discuss vaccines together.
- Address underlying issues. Routine blood work usually accompanies annual check ups. These labs can detect problems you may not even know about. For example, an abnormal thyroid level in your blood work may explain your weight gain or lethargy as of late. Serious symptoms of other conditions tested during blood work may not present themselves until further down the road when treatment and recovery may be more difficult.
- Schedule your annual appointment. Don’t wait to go to your doctor only when you are feeling sick. Partner with your primary care physician in helping you lead a healthy, long life.