Part of staying healthy is maintaining the health you already have, and keeping up-to-date on what’s going on with you. But you’re also like a complicated machine, so it can be hard to know which health appointments you should make each year, and how necessary they really are.
Annual General Physical
(The “Big Kahuna” of exams. Nice Pulp Fiction reference, right?)
This is your standard annual exam and will include a panel and screening for the following:
- Health history and family history: Have you had any ailments in the past? Has your family?
- Lifestyle: Smoking, alcohol, sexual health, diet, and exercise
- Vitals: Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory health
- Lab Tests: Blood count, blood sugar, cholesterol test, chemistry panel, and urinalysis (UA)
There are a few of these tests, like the cholesterol test, that are recommended every 4-6 years, rather than annually, but talking to your doctor is best to determine your health and how frequently you should be tested for certain things.
So, why is this important?
Honestly, if you’re one of those people who thinks, “I feel fine. I don’t need to go to the doctor,” (ahem—raising my hand over here) this should be your standard go-to each year. Often, people think preventative visits are unnecessary, and that the doctor is reserved for if you’re on your death bed, or if you, like, accidentally sever an arm (again—raising my hand, guiltily.) If you’re going to go to the doctor for anything, it should be for an annual exam. This is the bread and butter of your basic standard health, and just because you “feel fine” or “never get sick” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware if your blood pressure is elevated or if your urinalysis comes back abnormal. Sometimes, the foreshadowing our bodies give us is best observed in a professional test, rather than our own brains being like, “Eh, I’m okay.”
Physical Exams for Males
(Are you a male? Get your stuff checked out.)
Exams that pertain to your sexual health and wellness are important, as some annual exams don't include as many tests, like certain STD screenings. Here's what a male exam will entail:
- STD and STI exam: Includes a blood panel for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and a physical exam to determine changes in color and texture, ulcerations, lacerations, or any other physical appearance changes that could indicate an STD or STI.
- Prostate exam: This will help your doctor note any changes in prostate size that could be serious.
- Testicular exam: This will determine change in size, lumps, or tenderness that could indicate testicular cancer.
So, why is this important?
This year alone, there are about 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer, and about 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate and testicular exams are imperative for early detection of prostate cancer and possible treatment options.
Did you know sexual health is often the most ignored piece of the puzzle for people too? Especially with men, who can be carriers of STDs and STIs without showing any symptoms, practicing safe sex isn’t just “for the moment”. It also includes getting an annual exam to make sure you’re aware of STDs or STIs you may have not known about previously. This makes things safer not only for you, but for any current or future partners you have.
Physical Exams for Females
(Are you a female? Get your stuff checked out.)
Exams for females are a little more common, given specialists like OBGYNs. Here's what a female exam will entail:
- Breast exam: This will help determine lumps and bumps that could be cancerous.
- Pelvic exam: This will help your doctor screen for cervical cancer and help assess risk.
- STD and STI exam: This will include a blood panel for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and a physical exam to determine changes in color and texture, ulcerations, lacerations, or any other physical appearance changes that could indicate an STD or STI.
So, why is this important?
As I stated previously, people tend to ignore sexual health until something goes awry. With women, an annual exam is more common than men, but full panel STD tests are not always the norm, so be sure to ask for a full blood panel, as well as a pap. Annual exams are very important for determining underlying STDs or STIs that show no symptoms, as well as cervical cancer risks. In recent years, the number of deaths from cervical cancer have decreased, largely in part to cervical cancer awareness and annual screenings. Regular exams allow doctors to detect pre-cancer cells and treat them accordingly, so cervical cancer doesn’t develop or spread. Prevention is the best medicine.
Dental Exam and Cleaning
(Alright fine, dentists are scary and you’re not into it. But you’re also an adult who wants to keep your teeth in your skull, right? Ok, go to the dentist.)
I’ve never feared the dentist, but it’s been shown that about 9% to 15% of people have anxiety and phobia about going to the dentist. The fear is real. However, getting your teeth cleaned regularly is preventative care that could save you money (and a toothache) in the future. I mean, what if you crack a tooth? Or get an awful cavity? Or chip a tooth on a beer bottle while you’re dancing with friends at a house party? (This may or may not have actually happened to me… No comment.)
Anyway, you’re going to want to keep those pearlies in top shape, no matter how scary or tedious the dentist may seem. You can also practice preventative care at home by brushing your teeth thoroughly and, yep, that’s right… flossing! How many times have you been to the dentist and they tell you to floss more. It happens to me every time. If it seems like they’re always reminding you to floss, it’s because this actually helps significantly in your at-home preventative care.
(Hey, those peepers need some love.)
First of all, it’s important to understand that a vision screening and an eye exam are two separate things. Remember those letter charts you had to read in elementary school? That’s a visual acuity test, also known as a vision screening, and it’s a cost-effective way to test your basic vision and detect major vision problems. From here, any issues that are detected will be sent to an eye doctor, and a more thorough eye exam will help determine the solution to your eye problem, whether glasses, contacts, medicine or surgery.
Keeping your eyes in top shape is very important. Your eyes are a pretty fragile part of your body, with delicate blood vessels and other intricate makings housed within your eyeball. Not every problem has a perfect solution and big eye problems like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and detached retinas can’t always be fixed 100%. Also, I mean, IT’S YOUR EYES. For most of us, they are the navigators of our lives, even helping you read the information on your screen right now. (Oh hey there!)
On a fun note, eye exams also give you a chance to get some sweet, new frames, or even opt for the route of corrective eye surgery, ridding yourself of glasses once and for all.
If you're looking for other ways to stay healthy, why not get active and fit with your family? We've got a blog for that, right here.
Don’t let those annual appointments lapse! I probably sound like your mother. In which case, she would agree with me, so get yourself to a doctor and stay informed on your health... or I'll call your mother! (Not really. I don't know you that well. But I bet your mom is cool. Mine is.)