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The Importance of an Annual Physical

How often do you visit your doctor for a check-up? In this WLTX interview, Dr. Javier Carles of Chapin Family Practice, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, talks about when to visit your doctor and what you need to discuss.

According to Dr. Carles, adults should have a wellness visit each year. During those visits, doctors typically tailor testing to your age, gender, risk factors and family history.

If you’re born between 1945 and 1965, doctors perform a Hepatitis C screen. Mammography begins at age 40. Colorectal cancer screening usually begins at age 50 with a colonoscopy. If you’ve had a family history of cancer, screenings may begin earlier.

Adults need immunizations, too. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, COPD, or if you’re a smoker, doctors recommend a pneumonia vaccine before age 65. Otherwise, a pneumonia vaccine is recommended at age 65.

Seeing a family practice physician like Dr. Carles has many benefits. These doctors treat the whole family – knowing your family history and the dynamics of your family are helpful to doctors taking care of your overall health and well-being.

The Importance of Checkups with Your Primary Care Physician

Many adults think a yearly checkup isn’t really necessary, especially when they consider themselves to be healthy, but periodic physical exams should be part of everyone’s health care.

A physical exam can help to determine if you are as healthy as you feel or catch health problems before they become serious. A checkup also helps you and your primary care provider come up with a care plan for a longer, healthier life.

“Annual checkups are a good time to discuss your overall health, diet and family history, which may indicate a need for earlier screenings. A lot of things can change in a year.

People gain and lose weight, go through emotional changes – all of it can affect their health,” said Sarah Cottingham, MD, at Palmetto Family Medicine, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

An annual physical for an adult can include things such as:
− a comprehensive physical exam catered to your age, gender and specific risk factors;
− electrocardiogram to check for heart health;
− examination of respiratory health;
− skin screening to check for dermatological health;
− lab tests, including blood count and cholesterol;
− body mass index testing;
− screenings for age- and gender-appropriate cancer risk factors.

During a child’s annual checkup, a doctor may look at:
− his or her overall growth and development;
− missed immunizations or needed booster shots;
− dental, vision, speech or hearing issues;
− cholesterol, blood count, urine, blood sugar and/or scoliosis results.

“An annual physical isn’t just getting a full-body exam. You may need labs tests, vaccinations and cancer screenings, which depend on age and risk factors. Even if you eat well and exercise, you could still have high cholesterol or be at risk for developing diabetes. We can’t know if you have these conditions if we aren’t checking for them,” said Dr. Cottingham.

Apart from cancer and other screenings, such as diabetes and heart disease, a physical exam helps patients answer questions about their health and lifestyle, and get advice on how to lead the healthiest lifestyle possible.

It’s also an opportunity to tell your doctor about any medical conditions or diseases within your family. Certain diseases and medical conditions can be hereditary, and families can pass on lifestyle habits. People who live, play and eat together influence each other’s attitudes toward smoking, exercise, weight and many other factors that influence your health.

For Dr. Cottingham, annual checkups are a great way to help her patients have good quality of life along with quantity of life.

“If we can catch high cholesterol and elevated blood sugars early and make lifestyle changes or treat with medicine, we can significantly decrease the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more.”

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