Part of helping others stay healthy is maintaining the health you have yourself, and keeping up-to-date on what’s going on with your body. 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
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.
If you’re one of those people who thinks, “I feel fine. I don’t need to go to the doctor,” 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 have a severe accident. 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 minds.
Sexual Health and Wellness Exams
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 sexual health and wellness exam could entail, depending on gender or risk:
- 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: 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.
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.
Sexual health is often the most ignored piece of the health puzzle. Some people can be carriers of STDs and STIs without showing any symptoms. 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. Practicing safe sex also includes getting an annual full blood panel 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.
Dental Exam and Cleaning
It’s been shown that about 9 to 15 percent 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?
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 us all. 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? 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 wholly. For a lot of people, our eyes are life navigators, even helping you read the information on your screen right now.
On a fun note, eye exams also give you a chance to get some stylish, new frames, or even opt for the route of corrective eye surgery, ridding yourself of glasses once and for all.
Don’t let those annual appointments lapse. Get yourself to a doctor and stay informed on your health.