What does your annual check-up actually check?

By Guest Editor on Sep 3, 2015

Most health insurances cover an annual physical with your primary care provider (PCP), yet most of us forget to schedule that appointment because it doesn’t feel important.

Your annual appointment is an important part of your healthcare. You can build a relationship with your provider, who may be able to better diagnose and prevent illnesses in your future.

What else does your PCP check for during your annual exam?

  1. Checks your health history and lifestyle choices. Do you smoke? How often do you exercise weekly? These questions and others can give an overview of your state of health.
  2. Using a thermometer and a blood pressure cuff, your PCP will check your blood pressure and average body temperature. If there are any abnormalities, your PCP may look into the issue more deeply.
  3. General appearance: skin color and condition, do you have trouble getting up and walking, does it look like you are eating well, etc.
  4. Memory and mental quickness: How do you respond to questions from your provider? Is it easy for you to answer questions? Are your answers hazy or is your speech interrupted?
  5. Heart exam: Do you have an irregular heartbeat, signs of heart disease, or a heart murmur? Listening to your heart may show early signs of illness that may lead to other tests.
  6. Sound of your lungs: When your PCP moves the stethoscope over your chest and back, they are monitoring your breath throughout the entirety of your lungs.
  7. Head and neck exam: When your PCP asks you to open up and say “ah,” this shows the condition of your teeth, tongue, and tonsils. Your ears and eyes are usually examined as well with an instrument called an otoscope that has a light and magnifying glass on it.
  8. Abdominal exam: By pressing on your abdomen, your provider can feel for excess abdominal liquid, the size of your liver to determine if it is swollen, and other digestive abnormalities.
  9. Dermatological exam: Point out any raised moles or newly discolored areas to your PCP. They may also look at your nails, which can show any potential vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
  10. Reflexes: Your PCP may use a rubber-ended tool to tap your extremities to check your reflexes and joint flexibility.

Seeing your primary care physician is also an excellent time to bring up any health concerns you may have that may be missed during the exam. Any questions about your health should also be addressed then as well. When it comes down to it, to stay well you have to be well. To be well, you have to give yourself regular checkups, no matter what your age is!