It’s common knowledge that having a routine physical scheduled with your doctor can help assess the current state of your health as well as help identify any upcoming health issues you need to be aware of. This is all true, and making sure you schedule your routine physical is a key part of keeping yourself as healthy as possible.
However, it’s also important to note that this is one way your doctor gets to know you. The better relationship you have with your primary care physician, they better they will know your specific health history and goals and the better they can serve you.
This month, I’d like to go over some important information so that everyone can make a success out of their physical and get the most out of your time spent at the doctor’s office.
What to expect:
First and foremost, you’ll likely have your height and weight measured. From there, your doctor will ask you about your health history as well as your family health history. It is important to answer these questions as thoroughly as you can, as this is important information that your doctor will use to help provide you with the best care and treatment options.
I recently wrote a blog post on the importance of family health history and how you can best provide that information to your doctor:
From there, your doctor will likely run through a series of physical exams. These will include checking your vital signs, like your heart rate and blood pressure. Other exams will cover everything from your heart and lung health, to your abdominal health and general appearance. There will be specific checks that apply to your gender and will help your doctor identify any issues that may exist.
Your doctor might suggest taking some blood or urine samples to take to the laboratory. These samples will be analyzed to check for internal conditions that can’t be identified just through a physical exam.
Click here for a comprehensive guide to physical exams
How you can prepare
It is important to think about your overall health with a head-to toe inventory before you go to your physical. It can often be hard to think of health issues on the spot while you are at the doctor’s office. Spend some time thinking about your health over the past year what have your concerns or issues have been. Write these down if you think it will help you remember important issues to bring up in your exam. Planning ahead will help you get the most out of your time, and, if there is a complication, leave a message with the receptionist ahead of your appointment so your doctor will be prepared.
It’s also important to make sure you understand your insurance information, so you know how much you’ll pay for your doctor’s visit. Many insurance providers allow for one free physical exam per year, but it pays to fully understand your policy as well as the services that your doctor’s office can provide.
Click here to read an excellent article on how to prepare for a physical from Dr. Oz.
How often should you go?
Many healthy people choose not to do an annual physical. Especially when you are young, keeping a good diet and exercise regimen and avoiding destructive habits like smoking will keep you healthy and fit. However, I still recommend doing a physical each year for a few reasons:
- Your physical is one way you can form a good relationship with your doctor. This is very important when you actually need some health advice or care. The better your doctor knows and understands your specific health needs and concerns, the better they can provide the proper care for you.
- It’s typically covered by insurance*. Under most health insurance policies, you are entitled to preventative services. You might as well take advantage of this option. Even if your doctor doesn’t identify specific health concerns, it can provide excellent peace of mind to know that you are healthy. If your doctor suggest lab tests, it pays to know if these are covered under your insurance and if they are truly necessary. You don’t want to pay for tests you don’t need. Just ask!
Thanks for checking in this month, and I hope this guide will help you understand and prepare for your next physical. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to join in on the conversation. As a family practice doctor, I have a good amount of insight into routine physicals and would love to share my knowledge.
* As always, please check with your insurance carrier to understand your personal coverage. This post in no way assumes the coverage on any individual’s health plan.
Best wishes for a happy and healthy September,
Dr. Rogena Johnson