The annual primary care exam (physical) is a key part of maintaining your health and should be taken seriously. Not only does it capture important information about your health and wellness, it can also identify potential health issues before they become serious. In this article, we have gathered information on what to expect in your primary care exam and information on how to prepare for your exam. By following this guide, you can be sure you are getting the most out of your primary care visit.
Why go to Your Annual Primary Care Exam?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 82% of Americans visited a primary care doctor or specialty physician in 2021. This number is up significantly from 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic caused Americans to focus more on their health and well-being. One of the best ways to ensure you are in tip-top shape is by visiting your primary care doctor each year. This exam allows you to check in on your medical status and ask questions about your health. Additionally, these annual visits can be preventative. Your doctor knows what kinds of disease or chronic illness you are at risk for and can help you prevent them. Additionally, you can get tested for diseases in hopes of catching any illness early. Overall, your annual primary care exam is one of the best things you can do.
What to Expect
While there are standard procedures for most primary care exams, people of different ages and genders may have different or additional testing. Here is a basic overview of what to expect during your annual visit.
One of the first things your primary care doctor or nurse will do is check your vital signs. Vital signs include body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, and steadiness, and blood pressure (though blood pressure is not considered a vital sign, it will be measured at the same time as the vital signs). Your provider will use this information as a baseline for the rest of your appointment. Each of the vital signs can provide important information about the state of your health.
A physical examination will be performed by your provider. This examination typically includes four steps: inspection, palpation, auscultation, and percussion. The first step, inspection, involves looking at the body. Typically, providers look for signs of cancer or disease, such as skin tone changes, lumps, or suspicious moles. They may also ask you to move parts of your body to see if your movement is smooth. In the second step, the doctor will feel certain areas of the body, like the torso, to look for consistency in texture, location, and tenderness of certain organs. Thirdly, the doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to your breathing sounds and heartbeat. In the final step, the doctor will tap on certain areas of your body, like your back and stomach, to make a sound in the body. Additionally, they may use a reflex hammer to test your reflexes.
Blood Work and Vaccinations
The final step to your physical appointment is blood work and vaccinations. Depending on your age and gender, your doctor may take and test a sample of blood for a variety of things. Additionally, you may be offered some vaccinations if you have lapsed on any.
How to Prepare for your Physical
Preparing for your annual primary care appointment is a great way to ensure you get the most out of the visit.
Make Your Appointment
The first step is the make the appointment. When calling the office, ask if you will need to fast or if there is anything you should avoid doing ahead of time. If you are visiting a new provider, be sure to fax your medical records to the new office.
Create a List of Medications
No matter how long you have been seeing your provider, it is important to update them on your medications. The medications you take may influence how they advise you during your appointment. Be sure to include prescriptions, herbal supplements, vitamins, and any over-the-counter medications you take regularly.
Be Prepared to Answer Questions About Your Medical and Family History
Your annual primary care exam is a time for your doctor to check up on your health and make sure you are on the right track. It is important to be prepared to answer questions about your personal life, like the following:
- How many alcoholic beverages do you drink each week?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you partake in recreational drugs?
- Are you sexually active?
- Have you had any surgeries?
- Are you allergic to any medications?
Additionally, you may be asked questions about your family’s medical history. You must answer these questions honestly.
Bring a List of Questions
Ask your own questions. If you have any strange aches or new allergies, this is a great time to ask your doctor about them. Bring your concerns forward to help you and your doctor prevent disease or chronic illness.
Make your annual primary care exam today!
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