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An annual physical exam ensures wellness and good health. Some consider it a preventive step and a way to catch a more serious condition before it begins to cause problems. An annual physical can also monitor vitals like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other markers.
Doctors use a physical exam to see how the body is performing. Depending on a patient’s personal health history, a doctor may choose to focus on certain areas of a physical exam. People with a family history of heart disease may receive additional blood pressure checks, blood tests, and cholesterol screenings.
Based on test results, age, and personal health history, it is also an opportunity to discuss future prevention measures.
An average physical exam may include the following components:
Screening tests might also be requested. These differ for women and men.
Both Men and Women
Most full physical exams are performed only once a year in a doctor’s office. When additional screenings or imaging tests are recommended, some may be completed at an imaging center or hospital. Blood test draws can be performed at the doctor’s office before samples are sent to a lab for analysis.
Most portions of a physical exam carry no risks. Some mild discomfort and pain might occur during a blood test when the needle is inserted into the vein for blood withdrawal. A small bruise may also develop where the needle was inserted after it’s removed. This bruise should heal in a few days.
While the physical exam is considered by many to be a great way to develop an overall picture of a person’s health, some experts are not as convinced of its necessity. Some abnormal test results may cause unnecessary worry. It is important to speak with a doctor about physical exams. They may not require one each year.
There is no need to prepare for a physical exam, unless a doctor requests a fast for a fasting blood test.
The doctor may request a return visit to discuss test results. The physical exam is a chance for a frank discussion about health, habits, and a patient’s future. Signs of potential problems can be tackled with a plan to treat them.
Written by: Kimberly Holland
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA
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