Why an Annual Physical Exam is So Important
Scheduling an annual physical exam is a simple, yet very important step to maintaining good health. Your annual physical allows your primary care physician to check for signs of any health issues before they worsen, while also providing guidance to help you achieve your long-term health goals.
Many patients make the mistake of thinking that an annual physical exam is unnecessary if they feel healthy. But in actuality, these exams are essential for preventative care. They can uncover potential problems that may not yet have any symptoms. And, if you are currently experiencing symptoms, your doctor can provide better care by having more intimate knowledge of your medical history from routine checkups every year.
What happens at an annual physical exam?
While every medical office is different, there are certain types of checkups that occur at most annual physicals. In general, these exams provide an opportunity for the physician to check your vital signs and overall health, while also addressing any questions or concerns you have.
Your doctor or nurse may check the following:
- Weight and height: This is to monitor for any signs of dramatic weight gain or loss, which can be caused by a number of health issues.
- Blood pressure: A blood pressure cuff, placed around the arm, is commonly used to check blood pressure. While each patient is unique, the normal/healthy range is considered to be less than 120/80 mm Hg.
- Heart rate: Staff will typically check your heart rate a few times, often by a nurse before the doctor sees you, and again by your physician.
- Respiratory health: Your nurse and/or physician will typically check your breathing for any signs of heart or lung problems.
- Temperature check: Staff will take your temperature to check for fever (or an abnormally low temperature).
- Head, neck and throat exam: Stick out your tongue and say ‘ahh.’ This common exam involves checking your throat and tonsils, as well as other parts of your head, including ears, nose, eyes, teeth and neck.
- Neurological exam: A common part of this checkup is tapping your knee with a little rubber hammer, which helps to check your reflexes. You physician may also check your muscle strength, nerves, balance and mental state.
- Skin exam: Your physician will typically perform a quick dermatological exam for signs of abnormalities on your skin.
Physicals for men and women can also be slightly different. For example, physicians may check men for signs of testicular or prostate problems, while women are often checked for abnormalities in the breasts.
If any issues are uncovered during the physical, or you have certain risk factors, your doctor may order additional screenings and blood tests, such as:
- Blood count
- Chemistry panel
- Urinalysis (UA)
- Cholesterol test (lipid panel)
Annual physicals can also include:
- Abdominal exam
- Extremities exam
- General appearance check
- Blood sugar check
How long does a physical take?
Every appointment is different, but most exams only take about 30-45 minutes.
Physicals can be longer or shorter depending on your age, existing health issues or the specific questions you have for your doctor.
Schedule your annual physical exam at Maryland Primary Care in Lanham, MD. Make an appointment today by calling 301-277-3555.
Every patient at Maryland Primary Care receives exceptional care from our entire staff and gets access to our free app, which analyzes cardiovascular risk and creates a personalized plan of activities and diet for a healthier lifestyle.