Annual physical: Why you should make an appointment

Take preventive action now to avoid potential illness later.

Call it a physical, check-up or annual exam, but a regular appointment with a primary care provider can have endless and potentially untold benefits.

It’s understandable that many people only make doctor appointments when they’re sick—get an exam, a prescription and feel better in a few days. An annual appointment, though, is the appointment when patients can check in with their doctor about their overall health’s outlook.

“Over the past decades, the healthcare has shifted the concept of primary care from an acute illness and initial treatment focus to that of a preventative basis," said Dr. Stephanie Coleman, an internal medicine specialist at McLaren Oakland. "Today’s preventative measures will pay great dividends for many patients in the future, and many of my patients believe and participate in this strategy.”

To determine the patient’s outlook, the doctor will perform several standard — but very important — tests to get a broader understanding of their patients’ health and where it’s heading.

Doctors test:

  • Blood pressure
  • Height and weight
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar

He or she will also use this time to recommend specialized health screens (such as cancer, aneurysms, bone scans) based on specific risk factors.

This is also the patient’s chance to discuss their concerns with the doctor — concerns such as struggles with depression, anxiety, weight gain/loss or potentially unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking, drug use and diet.

The doctor will provide expert counsel on how lifestyle choices can affect the risk for developing chronic conditions.

How to prepare

Physicians encourage their patients to take an active role in their own health.

An annual physical is a patient’s time with their doctor, so don’t be afraid to bring a list of questions about your health — what do you want to know more about regarding your health and well-being?

Other ways to prepare for your appointment:

  • Ask if any tests will require you to fast before the appointment.
  • Bring a list of all medications.
  • Bring the results of any recent exams, including imaging results.
  • Bring a list of all recent immunizations.