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Bay Wellness - Don't Forget
DON’T FORGET YOUR ANNUAL CHECKUP
“Every man and woman should have an annual physical,” says family medicine physician Paula Krauser, M.D., M.A. “It’s important for your long-term health care needs to get to know your physician and for your physician to get to know you. That way, should a health care emergency arise, your doctor has already established a baseline and is familiar with your overall health, family history and any special conditions or concerns.”
Family physicians work on a biopsychosocial model, which means that comprehensive care rests on knowing each patient as well as their family history and their environment.
An annual exam can include the following:
HISTORY: Talk with your doctor about any complaints or concerns about your health. Your doctor will also likely quiz you about important behaviors, like smoking, excessive alcohol use, sexual health, diet and exercise. The doctor will also check your family medical history.
VITALS: Your doctor will check your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature. Your doctor will gather a lot of information about you just by looking at you and talking with you. He or she will also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs and then examine your head and neck, abdomen, and extremities. A neurological exam will assess nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance and mental state.
FOR MEN: An annual check-up for men might also include a hernia exam and an exam of the penis and prostate.
FOR WOMEN: A family physician will encourage all women to schedule an annual Pap test and pelvic exam.
LAB TESTS: There are no standard lab tests but some doctors routinely order a complete blood count and chemistry panel. If there is a suspected issue, and depending on age, gender and family history, your physician may order a urinalysis, lipid test (which includes cholesterol), thyroid, EKG and other tests appropriate for symptoms and history.
VACCINATIONS: Your physician may recommend a vaccination every ten years for diphtheria, proteases and tetanus. Depending on age, your physician may also recommend additional vaccines. Over age 60 - a new vaccine for herpes zoster (shingles). Over age 65 – an annual influenza vaccine and a pneumonia vaccine.
PREVENTION: The annual physical is a great time to focus on prevention and screening. At age 50, it’s time to begin regular screening for colorectal cancer. People with immediate family with colorectal cancer may need to be screened before age 50. For most women, 40 marks the age to begin annual mammogram screening for breast cancer. Everyone should have cholesterol checked every five years after age 20.
HEALTHY BEHAVIORS: Your doctor will urge you to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer with a regular exercise program, a healthy diet, and a lifestyle that includes smoking cessation and avoiding excessive alcohol.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE A SPECIALIST? Family physicians can expertly coordinate the care and treatment of patients with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or hypertens ion. A family medicine physician will refer patients to a sub-specialist such as an endocrinologist, neurologist, oncologist, hematologist or cardiologist when additional expertise is required.
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