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Top 10 Reasons for an Annual Physical

May 23rd, 2007 at 01:19 pm

Top 10 Reasons for an Annual Physical

“I feel fine.”
“I only go to the doctor when I’m sick.”
“Doctors only recommend physicals to make more money.”

People have all kinds of excuses for not getting regular check-ups. Here are 10 reasons why you should. For the record, I’m a board certified family practice physician in practice for 14 years.

1. High blood pressure: Often called “the silent killer”, high blood pressure usually causes no symptoms at all but greatly increases your risk of having a heart attack, a stroke, kidney damage and other serious health problems. Millions of people have high blood pressure and don’t know it until something bad happens. Seeing your doctor annually and getting your BP checked can identify the problem before it harms you.

2. Diabetes: Like high blood pressure, high blood sugar can have no symptoms until it is severe, but will still be damaging your body even though you can’t feel it. An annual sugar test can identify this hidden disease. This is especially important if you have a family history of diabetes or you are overweight. Women who had elevated sugar during pregnancy are also at higher risk of developing diabetes later in life and should be regularly screened.

3. Cholesterol: Same story. No symptoms. Unless you get a simple blood test, you don’t know your cholesterol is high and hard at work clogging your arteries and setting you up for a heart attack or stroke.

4. Cancer screening: Many common cancers can be checked for with simple tests as part of your annual physical. In the office, we can screen for breast, colon, skin, cervical and prostate cancers by exam, blood test, Pap smear and sending you for a mammogram. Patients 50 and older should also get a colonoscopy.

5. Vision: It never fails to amaze me how many patients come for physicals and can barely read the eye chart. I wonder how many auto accidents are due to drivers who just can’t see what is happening around them.

6. Vaccines: You aren’t all done with shots once you turn 5 years old. Adults need shots, too. Tetanus boosters, flu shots, pneumonia vaccines, pertussis boosters, hepatitis B, etc. This is particularly important if you are planning any foreign travel, but even if you aren’t. Speaking of travel, you should always check with your doctor well in advance of a trip to see if any special vaccines are needed (typhoid, yellow fever, malaria medication, etc.).

7. Obesity: Many people never step on a scale outside of their doctor’s office. As a result, a lot of folks seem truly surprised when they come in, get weighed, and see how many pounds they’ve gained. Often, just seeing that number motivates them to make some changes, start eating better and get back to their exercise routine. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to discuss their weight and make suggestions about how to address it.

8. Smoking: Studies have shown that patients whose doctors counsel them to quit are more likely to quit. If you smoke, hopefully your doctor will raise the subject during your annual exam and talk to you about quitting. There are various methods to help you quit that your doctor can prescribe if you are ready and willing to make a quitting attempt.

9. Thyroid disease: This is a common problem, particularly in women. There are symptoms, but many of them are very general and people attribute them to other things: fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, changes in the menstrual cycle. This is another case where a simple blood test can identify the true cause of those symptoms and your doctor can prescribe medication to correct the problem.

10. Anemia: Again, something like thyroid disease that has symptoms that people often attribute to something else. Fatigue, decreased exercise endurance, headaches – all things that many of us feel from time to time. That annual blood test can determine if the underlying cause is a low blood count. If so, your doctor can work with you to find out why you are anemic. The cause could be something simple and benign or something much more serious. Catching it early could make a big difference in the outcome.


3 Responses to “Top 10 Reasons for an Annual Physical”

  1. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    May I add that one should get EARLY medical care in pregnancy rather try to save money by not seeing a doctor?

    In one of my "previous lives," I did a clinical rotation in neonatal intensive care. A number of grossly premature babies there would probably have been healthily developing in the womb had their Moms gotten prenatal care at a cost way less than just one day's highly technologized intervention in the babies' ICU. The costs were more than just monetary, too, of course.

  2. rduell Says:

    Good points. I have high blood pressure and thyroid disease and both can leave you feeling lousy without you even knowing it because they symptoms sneak up on you gradually.

  3. princessperky Says:

    I dunno, by your list I only have two reasons to go to the DR, thyroid making me tired, not the three rugrats and lousy bedtime...and cholesterol,

    1. BP checked when I donate, 117/90 is fine
    2. Diabetes, I have low blood sugar not high
    3. ok but I eat the same as my husband and his is fine
    4. cancer..eh chemo would make me lose my hair, you knw I couldn't take that!
    5.vision, trust me I see a eye dr! I know I am blind
    6. vaccines, eh if I step on another nail Ill get a tetanus shot.
    7. obesity..really I don't like 160 at 6 ft, but it isn't obese
    8.don't smoke
    9. pretty sure it is bad sleep habits making me tired, not thyroid.
    10. anemia, that is low iron right? drops like a lead bullet at the blood donation thing.

    I am sure you mean well, but that list leaves me to think I am fine to wait till my next pregnancy for a Dr.

    And the last Dr I went to was...one of them bad impressions kinda guys.

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