Your annual physical should be more than a quick checkup and a “See you next year, Doc.” It’s your chance to strengthen a vital partnership with your healthcare provider and assess your medical outlook and overall health and wellbeing.
Think of your physical as a two-part process. First, of course, is the actual exam itself. The second part is getting a thorough understanding of your health. Here are 10 questions for your doctor that will help you gain insight:
1. Are all my vital signs normal or within accepted limits?
Ask about your:
- body-mass index (BMI), a formula that tells if your weight is appropriate for your height
- blood pressure and pulse to see if your heart is beating regularly and if your blood pressure is in the normal range (120/80 mm Hg)
- breathing to learn if your lungs are working efficiently or if your breathing sounds shallow, labored or rapid
- skin tone and nails, whose color, texture and appearance give clues to underlying disorders of your vital organs
2. Is my health better, the same, or worse since my last checkup?
3. What are the best ways I can maintain my health or manage my condition?
Ask for advice on:
- dietary intake to be sure you’re avoiding high-fat, high-calorie meals and aren’t overdoing alcohol
- physical activities to help prevent disease or manage a chronic condition
- stress-management tips to ease chronic tension and anxiety that send blood pressure soaring and create a host of other ills
4. Given my personal and family medical history, do I have a higher than normal risk for certain illnesses? Review with your doctor your family medical history and your personal medical history.
5. Given my age and health, what symptoms may indicate the onset of an illness?
6. Given my medical status, what specific symptoms may indicate a health emergency?
7. What screenings should I have? Your doctor may recommend a mammogram for breast cancer, a bone density scan for osteoporosis, a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer, a blood test for prostate-specific antigens that may indicate prostate cancer, a Pap smear to look for irregular cervical cells, or blood tests for cholesterol and other markers for cardiovascular disease.
8. Should I be seeing a specialist for any reason?
9. What new therapies or changes in treatment since my last checkup should I know about?
10. Should I get a flu shot? Flu shots are recommended for patients over age 50. Other candidates: people in public-service jobs; those with heart conditions, asthma, diabetes or an immune-system disorder; and patients receiving cancer treatment.
Be sure to mention any current symptoms or unusual feelings—physical or emotional—that you may have. Never let embarrassment, fear, or shame keep you from telling your physician about a problem. Physicians are trained to handle all your medical concerns—and you won’t be the first patient with a sensitive issue. Likewise, contact your physician’s office any time you have a question about your health or are having trouble adhering to their instructions. Remember, communicating openly with your physician is just as important as eating right, exercising, and watching your weight.
Schedule your next checkup today!