Annual checkups are essential to your ongoing health. Even if you feel well, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor once a year. If your doctor gets to know you when you’re healthy, you are more likely to receive better care if you get sick. A checkup, sometimes called a physical exam, is also the perfect time to ask questions about your health and discuss changes you can make for a healthier lifestyle. Here are six reasons to schedule your annual checkup today.
1. Build a relationship with your primary care doctor
An annual checkup is a great way for you and your doctor to get to know each other better and strengthen your relationship. It gives you a chance to focus on your overall health and well-being and get the preventive care you need to stay healthy.
Be sure to write down any questions you have and make a list of your medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and vitamins.
2. Establish baselines for your current health
During your exam, your doctor will review your medical history—including vaccines, allergies, new diagnoses, and recent surgeries—and check your vital signs to create a baseline for your overall wellness. This may involve checking your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate.
Depending on your family history, lifestyle, and risk factors—and according to the guidelines for your age group—your doctor may order blood tests and screenings, including:
- Blood pressure screening to measure the force of your blood against your arteries
- Cholesterol screening to measure the amount of cholesterol in your blood
- Blood glucose screening to measure the amount of sugar in your blood
- Body mass index (BMI) calculation to determine if you’re at a healthy weight
- Osteoporosis screening to check for osteoporosis or osteopenia
Screening tests can identify conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, even if you have no symptoms. If you have a family history of a chronic disease, it’s important to get your recommended screenings and take steps to lower your risk factors for the disease.
3. Make lifestyle changes to improve your health
An annual checkup is an ideal time to talk to your doctor about what you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk for diseases. Whether you want to lose weight, improve your sleep, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, find time to exercise, or reduce stress, your doctor can help you achieve your health goals.
Your doctor may also discuss safety issues, like whether you use a seatbelt or wear a bike helmet, ask about your alcohol intake and sexual activity, and screen for depression or anxiety.
If you use tobacco, ask your doctor to help you create a plan to quit smoking.
4. Screen for cancer
Visiting your primary care doctor for regular preventive care is one of the best ways to detect a potential health issue before it starts and identify an illness early, when treatment is more likely to be successful.
Depending on your age and risk factors, your doctor may recommend screenings for skin cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, or prostate cancer. In addition, your doctor will review your family history to determine whether you may need earlier screenings for certain medical conditions.
5. Review your prescriptions medications and supplements
It’s important for your doctor to review all of the medications you take—including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements—at least once a year. Your doctor can help you avoid unexpected side effects and make sure the drugs don’t interact with each other in a harmful way.
Also, the changes you make to your diet or lifestyle over time may reduce your need to take medications for conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure, so your doctor can adjust your prescriptions as needed.
6. Update your vaccinations
Keeping your immunizations up to date can help prevent dangerous diseases. Depending on your age, you may need a vaccine or booster to help protect you from preventable illnesses. During your annual checkup, your doctor will review your vaccination history and recommend any shots you need, including:
- Tdap vaccine: A combination vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (or “whooping cough”)
- HPV vaccine: Protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus
- Pneumonia vaccine: To prevent lung infections
- Hepatitis B vaccine: To prevent liver disease
- Shingles vaccine: Recommended for most adults age 50 and older
Health plans cover preventive health checkups
An annual checkup is a good investment in your health. Preventing illnesses and detecting and treating conditions early can help lower your healthcare costs in the long term. While most health insurance plans cover an annual wellness visit, it’s always a good idea to verify your coverage details before you make an appointment.
Cleveland Clinic, Why You Need an Annual Physical (and What to Expect)