Complete Physical Exams
The Importance of an Annual Physical Examination
The annual physical exam is a multi-faceted and important tool used to monitor the patient’s health and identify any deficiencies that need to be addressed. It is generally recommended that all adults over the age of forty and all women of reproductive age have an annual physical exam. There are many illnesses that can be diagnosed and treated early to minimize harm to a patient’s health: pre-diabetes and diabetes continue to increase in all age groups; heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women in the United States; about fifty percent of men and seventy-five percent of women above the age of 65 will experience an osteoporotic bone fracture; and in the United States, cancer is likely to affect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women at least once in their lifetime.
The annual physical exam allows the healthcare provider an opportunity to evaluate the patient, literally from head to toe, as well as to address any new concerns or symptoms the patient may be experiencing. Carefully reviewing and listening to the patient’s history for potential clues, in addition to assessing vital signs (like blood pressure), and performing screening tests are all a part of the overall evaluation of the patient’s health.
For women, the annual gyn exam is critical to evaluate for breast health, in addition to screening for cervical, ovarian, and other pelvic abnormalities. For men, the annual prostate exam and PSA blood test allows the provider to assess for both rectal and prostate concerns. Additionally, one out of three men over the age of forty-five have low testosterone which can lead to serious bone loss, as well as many other symptoms. Therefore, blood testosterone levels may be appropriate at this time.
For both men and women, the hemoccult test screens for blood in the stool that may indicate colon cancer. The DEXA or bone density test screens for evidence of bone loss indicating osteopenia and/or osteoporosis. An EKG screens for potential cardiac abnormalities; but, it has an even greater importance when compared to prior EKGs, as it shows any changes between them which could warrant further investigation. The laboratory or blood evaluation includes screening for the patient’s kidney and liver function, a blood count review for possible anemia, fasting cholesterol (including the bad cholesterol – LDL) , blood sugar, vitamin deficiencies, and thyroid disorders.
Another important aspect of the physical exam is to ensure other outside screening tests are up to date such as mammograms and colonoscopies. It is recommended that all women have a baseline mammogram at age 35 with an annual mammogram beginning at 40 years old. Breast cancer can occur in all age groups, so screening remains important into the senior years. A colonoscopy is recommended for all patients aged 50 and above or earlier if they have had a first degree relative (parent or siblings) with colon cancer.
Oftentimes, there are new guidelines or screening tests that should be considered or implemented based on a patient’s personal or family medical history. With the explosion of medical information available to patients and practitioners alike, it is important to have a knowledgeable healthcare provider that can assimilate each patient’s personal healthcare history along with the most current guidelines to help ensure each patient’s health and wellness. Safeguard your health and quality of life; schedule your annual physical examination with your healthcare provider today.