An annual physical is a great window into seeing your overall health. It can transform and improve your health by testing for diseases, identifying problems, and pinpointing areas for improvement.
It can also help you resolve doubts about your health and build your relationship with your doctor.
But many people skip an annual checkup, unaware they are probably covered for it under their insurance, Medicare, or other programs.
Dr. Keith Lamy, at Austin family practice medicine clinic, advises patients to go ahead and take advantage of the annual visit that most insurance policies cover.
If you’ve paid for a physical through salary and other contributions, why not use it to visit the doctor to assess your needs?
A physical is valuable for screening to help detect things you might not be aware of, such as high blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and other issues.
Even if you’re feeling terrific, you still may have underlying issues that early, regular screening can identify. Checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other signs provides vital information about your condition and organ functions.
Tests can pinpoint disorders or diseases in those who do not show any symptoms. By catching problems early enough, you can begin treatment when it is the most effective.
Seeing your doctor each year for a head-to-toe check has been the tradition in the United States for decades.
In recent years, that practice has been questioned by some experts who say the annual might not have much of an impact on illness or your health. As debate continues about the value of physicals, most insurance companies still cover the visit.
Dr. Lamy advises there are many reasons for an annual visit besides the fact that your insurance probably covers it anyway.
People often have things on their mind that a checkup can help resolve. For example, you may wonder about what is—and isn’t—normal aging. Dr. Lamy can tell you how you’re doing for your age and what you could do differently to improve your health.
You may be a smoker who has tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking. Or you may be unsure how to achieve a healthy body weight. Or you may have questions about whether you have reached perimenopause and what impact it can have on your health.
Dr. Lamy can advise you how to reach your goals by assessing your needs and making recommendations.
Getting a physical is a good opportunity to take health that is in decent shape and make it even better.
If you have a serious or chronic illness, an annual exam is also a good idea. For example, people who take prescription drugs may need to come in for regular checks to monitor their conditions and drug usage.
Also, you may need to visit more often if you have a family history of cancer, stroke, lung or heart disease, or other serious ailments.
Your age may also justify an annual trip to the doctor. Older people, children, and pregnant women may be more at risk of certain illnesses, and may need to come in regularly.
You could need more monitoring if you smoke, use drugs or alcohol, eat poorly, don’t exercise much, or have other lifestyle habits that can jeopardize your health. Dr. Lamy can assess your condition and make recommendations about how to improve your regimen.
If you have certain risk factors—such as obesity, stress, or high blood pressure—you may need a physical more often, even if you appear to be healthy.
Also, if you find yourself worrying a lot about your health, it may be comforting to have Dr. Lamy assess you and provide feedback on your condition. Sometimes, the stress from worrying about whether anything is wrong can make matters worse.
And it goes without saying that you should have a physical if you develop symptoms that could impact your health. Waiting to see a doctor when you feel something is wrong can allow underlying conditions to worsen.
Finally, if you’ve never had a physical, or haven’t seen a doctor in a few years, it is probably a good idea to have a thorough exam. Among other things, a physical can identify what screenings you need and establish your numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and other signs.
You can also talk with Dr. Lamy about preventative care you might need for your age and condition.
Doctors often use the physical as their best chance to talk with patients about preventative measures. But even if you don’t need an annual visit, you can still tap into preventative services, such as flu shots, counseling, vaccinations, cancer screenings, and blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol tests.
Start by scheduling a talk with Dr. Lamy at his Austin family practice medicine clinic. He can order such services for you as part of a physical, or outside of one.
By taking advantage of the care and physical you’re entitled to, you can help transform your health to live better and longer.