Why do healthy people need physical exams?


Have you had your annual physical exam?

You feel fine, so why would you see your doctor?

Because even if you think you’re in perfect health, the screenings, tests, and questions that come during an annual physical exam can reveal hidden health problems.

I recently had a patient who hadn’t been to a doctor in 20 years. His eye doctor had noticed his blood pressure was high and recommended he see a doctor. He was surprised to learn that because of his dangerously high blood pressure, he was at risk for a heart attack or stroke.

“I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “I felt great. I didn’t think an exam was necessary.”

As this patient discovered, annual exams can help prevent disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, and high blood pressure is a major contributing factor to heart disease.

If you visit your doctor for regular physical exams, we often can detect risk factors like high blood pressure before you develop another serious disease. We’ll help you get your risk factors under control and monitor them to help keep you healthy.

What happens at an annual exam?

It’s not unusual for us to see people who haven’t seen a doctor in years and who didn’t realize they were pre-diabetic or had high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

We check those basic risk factors during a “review of systems” at your annual exam. Your doctor will ask you about the different systems of your body: Do you have chest pain or shortness of breath? How about leg swelling or abdominal pain?

Your doctor also will review your personal medical history, family medical history, and surgical history to make sure your records are up-to-date. We will ask about your diet and exercise habits and check to see if you need vaccines or preventive screenings such as a mammogram or a colonoscopy.

At your annual exam, your doctor will give you a health-related checklist of things to do in the next year, such as scheduling preventive screenings or getting vaccines – we can even send you reminders about these action items if you wish.

Share your concerns

Your annual exam is the perfect time to ask your doctor the health questions you’ve been wondering about. We can answer your questions and discuss any medical information you may have seen on television or the Internet. If you’re worried about a specific symptom or disease, speak up! The last thing we want is for you to stress over something that we can help you better understand.

Your annual exam is also a convenient time to sign up for MyChart, an electronic portal where you can find accurate medical information and communicate directly with your health-care providers when you aren’t in our office.

It’s important to realize you won’t always feel symptoms if you have a health problem. If you wait until you experience symptoms, your problem could have advanced to the point of potentially dangerous complications.

Remember: Annual exams are all about preventing disease. The most important thing you can do for your long-term health is to schedule an annual exam. You can do that online or by calling 214-645-8300.