What to Expect at Your Annual Physical

What to Expect at Your Annual Physical

by Crystal (SU)

If it’s been a year (or more) since your last physical exam, it’s time to call your doctor for a check-up to make sure you’re maintaining your health.

While a routine annual physical may not seem to be a big deal, it may be more comprehensive than you realize, potentially uncovering all sorts of health issues that need to be addressed – some sooner than later – or at the very least provide you with peace of mind knowing you’ve made it through another year, healthy and in good shape.

If it’s been a while since your last annual physical, here is what you can expect:

  • An update of your medical history – Here’s your chance to discuss any concerns you may have about your health. In addition to listening to your complaints or questions, your doctor may ask you about your lifestyle behaviors such as whether you smoke, if you use alcohol, how much exercise you’re going, your diet or other health-related issues.
  • A check of your vital signs – Your doctor will take your blood pressure and check your heart and respiration rate. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over less than 80, which 130 over 80 or higher indicates hypertension (high blood pressure). Although a heart rate between 60 and 100 is considered normal, many healthy patients have heart rates lower than 60. A normal respiration rate is 12 to 16 breaths per minute, while breathing more than 20 times per minute may indicate heart or lung problems.
  • A heart and lung exam – By listening through a stethoscope, your doctor can detect an irregular heartbeat, heart murmur, or other signs of heart disease. Your doctor can also hear decreased breathing sounds that suggest lung disease.
  • A head and neck exam – Open wide! Your doctor will want to examine your throat, tonsils (if you still have them), teeth and gums for clues about your overall health. Your doctor may also examine your ears, sinuses, and eyes, and manually check your lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries.
  • An abdominal exam – This can include tapping your abdomen to detect liver size and the presence of fluid, feeling for tenderness, or listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope.
  • Assessing your general appearance -- Your doctor can tell a lot about your health just by observing and talking with you. For example, he can tell if your skin appears healthy or whether your memory and mental acuity is up to snuff. He can start to notice slouching, which could indicate osteoporosis; or that your gait is a little off, indicating foot, knee or hip trouble. Is your hair thinning or nails brittle? Could be diet or lack of vital nutrients. He may check for skin cancers, warts, or any other telltale sign of disease.

Your annual physical may include additional exams based on your gender. For example, if you are male, your doctor may perform a prostate exam or check for a hernia or testicular lumps, tenderness, or changes in size. Meanwhile, a woman’s annual exam might include a breast and/or pelvic exam, as well as a Pap test and HPV test to screen for cervical cancer.

As part of an annual physical exam, some doctors will routinely order laboratory tests such as a complete blood count, a chemistry panel or urinalysis. A lipid panel (cholesterol test) is recommended every four to six years by the American Heart Association, while blood sugar is likely to be checked if your are overweight and have any risk factors for diabetes.

He will also review your prescription medications and ask if you are taking any supplements, and perhaps authorize new scripts or terminate old ones. He also may provide you with referrals for specialists who can assess his diagnoses, for example, if you complain of morning allergies or back pain, expect a referral to an allergist or orthopedist. Also, your doctor may provide you with any booster shots or vaccines for the coming year, for example flu shots, shingles vaccines, and meningitis. Depending on the physician, he may be authorized to sign off on occupational clearances, such as flight physicals.

For a comprehensive annual physical exam, come to see us at Patient Care Now Urgent Care in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. We are happy to take care of your health care needs. We are open from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Owned and operated by board-certified emergency medicine providers, we pride ourselves in providing a seamless medical experience to our patients. Call us at (267) 202-6433 for all your urgent care needs, or use our easy-to-use online check-in form now.