What to Expect Before a Physical Exam
WHAT TO EXPECT AT YOUR ANNUAL PHYSICAL
You may think of your annual physical exam as a precautionary measure and a task to check off your yearly to-do list, but it is actually a powerful diagnostic tool and one of the most important ways you can maintain your health.
The saying goes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this is why it’s so important to have a physical every year. Your physical examination gives your doctor a snapshot of your current state of health and creates an ongoing health record so that any irregularities or abnormalities can be flagged early on. It’s also an opportunity to ask your doctor any questions you may have so that you get the information you need to take good care of yourself.
YOUR OVERALL HEALTH
During your annual exam, your doctor will examine your overall health, including your:
Ears, nose, and throat
Your doctor will use their observations to check for risk factors for disease and compare the results to your previous year’s physical to see if anything has changed.
A PHYSICAL EXAM MAY CHECK MANY OR MOST OF THE FOLLOWING:
A physical exam usually takes less than an hour to perform and it typically begins with a short conversation where your doctor will ask you questions about your health, both currently and over the past year.
Then, your doctor will perform a head-to-toe examination of your body and its essential functions. This will include checking your vital signs, including your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and breathing, and assessing your general appearance.
The exam will proceed differently for men and women to assess the health and function of the genitals. For women, this often means a pelvic exam and a pap smear.
Your doctor may also request urine and blood samples which will be sent to a lab for analysis. In most cases, there is no need to fast or otherwise prepare for urine or blood tests.
DO I REALLY NEED TO DO A PHYSICAL EXAM EVERY YEAR?
As part of living a healthy lifestyle, you are encouraged to have a physical exam every year. While it may not be something you look forward to, it is a powerful way to track your health so that you and your doctor have the necessary information to keep you strong, healthy, and active throughout your life.