An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but good health doesn’t mean you should skip your annual physical exams. Visiting your primary care provider or family medicine doctor once a year helps your physician screen for potential health issues or detect a health condition early.
What to Bring
Don’t forget to take these items along to your annual exam:
- Photo identification (driver’s license, government ID, passport)
- Medical insurance card
- Completed forms (if any were given prior to your appointment)
- A list of all current medications, including the name of the medication, dose, and how often you take it. You should also include any vitamins, supplements or herbal remedies you regularly take.
- Your current medical history and medical records, especially if you are visiting a new provider
- Your family health history. This includes your immediate family, children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Reach out to family members beforehand for help while creating this list.
What to Expect
If you are sick and it is not an emergency, you can contact your provider’s office to make an in-person appointment or virtual visit with your doctor. Otherwise, routine, preventive care is scheduled each year with your regular physician. The length of an annual checkup can vary based on many factors, including your current health goals and overall wellness. Here’s what happens at a typical appointment:
First, a doctor or nurse will measure your height and weight, listen to your heart, and check your blood pressure. Having a record of your vital signs helps your provider notice any changes that may be a cause for concern.
The physician will also sit down with you to go over your current health history. Your provider may ask personal questions about your daily habits. Answer honestly. These questions help your physician understand the whole picture of your health.
Adults need immunizations, too. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off with age. Your provider will suggest recommended vaccines based on your age, job and lifestyle. You may be able to receive your annual flu shot during your appointment. Your physician will also let you know if you need a tetanus and diphtheria booster or additional immunizations to travel out of the country.
Your physician will also recommend important screenings based on your age, medical history, family history and lifestyle. Health screenings can detect a serious illness before symptoms begin.
Now is the time to bring up any concerns you have. If you haven’t been feeling your best, you should let your physician know what symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Write down specific questions before your appointment to ask. Your physician can talk you through solutions for any ongoing problems.
To wrap up the appointment, your physician may write a prescription or fill a previous one. Your physician can also refer you to other specialists for a medical service. If you need a special screening or have a specific concern, your doctor will make sure you are connected with the correct provider.
Top 6 Questions to Ask Your Physician
Having a few questions ready to ask your physician can help you feel informed after your visit. Don’t be tempted to stay quiet and search later for health answers on the Internet. Your doctor has years of education in the medical field and can give you trustworthy advice based on your own health circumstances.
Here are a few ideas of questions you can ask:
- Do I need any further testing?
- Am I following the best nutrition and exercise plan for me?
- Am I at increased risk for developing a certain disease or condition?
- What can I do about my increased risk for _____ disease or condition?
- How does my family history affect my health?
- I am experiencing _____ (symptom). Is this normal?