Should adults get annual physicals? That is one of the most common questions patients ask their medical professionals. Not meaning to be coy, but the answer to this question is yes … and no.
That’s because there are a number of factors that play into how often an adult should get a physical, and some are not as obvious as you think. Here are some considerations to help you determine what is right for you:
An Ounce of Prevention vs. a Pound of Cure
If you are very healthy and take precautions to maintain a healthy and conscientious lifestyle, you may be able to put off annual physicals. However, that could backfire, as doctors really do need to get to know their patients to determine trends, whether they need to be referred to specialists, and to gauge symptoms and tests from year to year. There is a misnomer that you should only see the doctor when you are sick; chances are you won’t be as sick if you seek out preventive care.
Family History and Pre-exiting Conditions
Do you have a family history of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or perhaps an auto-immune disease? Your doctor will want to see you at least once a year to make sure you are in good working order, or to refer you to a specialist.
You are a “Frequent Flyer”
If the doctor begins to wonder if the only reason you are seeing him is to earn miles for your credit card, then perhaps annual physicals may not be necessary. Every time you visit a doctor, he will take and record your vital signs. However, he likely will not perform routine bloodwork or refer you for certain tests, such as an EKG. When you set time up time specifically for a physical, your doctor will cover all those bases. Next time you have a problem and need to see the doctor, consider scheduling an annual physical and then bringing up your list of concerns at that time.
Check with Your Insurance
Some patients who are uninsured or have very high deductibles may opt out of an annual physical and only see the doctor when they are sick. This doesn’t bear well on determining the patient’s overall health because there is no baseline assessment to measure over time. For those who are insured, most insurance companies allow for one complete wellness physical a year. For women this may include an annual breast exam; for men a prostate exam. Your doctor may also refer you for a colonoscopy, blood work, bone screen or EKG. Depending on the practice, your doctor might perform a number of these procedures or tests in his office, or refer you to a specialist near-by. Before you think that your physical won’t be covered, check with your doctor’s office or insurance company. Don’t let this benefit go to waste!
Getting to Know You
How well do you know your doctor? How well does he know you? An annual physical is the perfect time to bring up concerns, ask questions, get referrals to specialists, and point things out you have questions or are curious about. The annual physical provides you that one-on-one time to work with your doctor to take inventory of your health, determine courses of action, adjust or prescribe new medications, and set goals.
Ultimately, the decision as to whether to have an annual physical is between you and your doctor. But it can’t hurt!
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