Is it time to see your doctor?
If you haven't been in a while or your annual appointment is coming up, you may have a few questions. For some people, this can be a really nerve-wracking experience – especially if they haven’t gone to the doctor in a while.
Let’s address some commonly asked questions about the annual physical and what it entails.
It’s Time For My Annual Physical – What Should I Do?
The most important thing to do when it’s time for your annual physical is pretty obvious – schedule your appointment.
Most medical practices will reach out to you when it’s time for your annual physical, but if you’ve recently moved, left your last care providers or haven’t seen a doctor in a while, it’s up to you to remember when you’re due for an exam.
How Do I Know It’s Time To See My Doctor?
As we mentioned above, if you regularly see a doctor and have been scheduling and attending an annual appointment at the same practice for a while, that doctor’s office will probably reach out to you and let you know you’re due for an annual visit.
Some practices might also recommend visits once a quarter or twice a year instead of annually, so talk with your doctor to find out what their recommended schedule for visits.
If you aren’t regularly seeing a doctor who will remind you that you’re due for a visit, ask yourself: When was the last time I saw a doctor?
If you can’t remember… it’s probably time to schedule a visit.
You may also want to consider scheduling a checkup if…
- Something has changed since the last time you saw a doctor.
- A doctor told you to follow up with them in a specific amount of time.
- You want to follow up on something from your last appointment.
- Something in your family medical history has changed.
How Do I Prepare For My Annual Physical?
If you’re due for an annual physical or going to the doctor for any other reason, you may be wondering what you need to do to prepare.
There are a few things you will want to gather or prepare in advance of your annual physical.
- List of current medications you take
- List of current supplements you take
- List of any symptoms or pain you’re experience
- List of questions you’d like to ask about your lifestyle or overall health
What Should Doctors Do During My Physical?
If you haven’t been to see a doctor in a long time, you may be curious about what is expected of a doctor at an annual physical.
After you’ve first arrived and checked in at your doctor’s office, a nurse will chat with you and take a few notes about things like:
- Your medical history
- Your family medical history
- Any symptoms or pain you’re experiencing
- Lifestyle behaviors like:
- Alcohol use
- Sexual health
Your nurse or primary care provider will also take note of your weight and height as well as vital signs including blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate and temperature.
Your physical will likely also include listening to your heart and lungs, examining your head and neck and examining the rest of the body and the skin for any abnormalities.
Do I Have To Get Blood Taken?
There are no standard laboratory tests that all doctors order during an annual physical. It will depend on your doctor and if you are experiencing any symptoms that a test might reveal.
Routine lab tests might include:
- Blood Count
- Chemistry Panel
What Should I Ask My Doctor?
If you want to get the most out of your annual physical, make sure you bring a notebook, something to write with and a list of the questions you want to ask your doctor.
As mentioned above, you’ll also want to bring information about medications and supplements you’re taking, a list of any symptoms or pain you’ve been experiencing and a list of any questions you have for your doctor.
We recommend starting your appointment with your list of questions, instead of asking your questions at the end of the appointment.
This is especially important if you’re worried your doctor won’t have time to answer everything.
These 10 questions are things you might want to ask your doctor during your visit.
- Am I Due For Any Vaccinations?
- Is My Weight OK?
- Am I Eating the Right Foods?
- Do I Still Need To Take These Medications?
- Does My Family Health History Put Me at Risk?
- Should I Be Getting Any Additional Screenings?
- Am I Getting Enough Sleep?
- Is This Normal?
- When Do I Need To See You Again?
- What Should I Do Before My Next Visit?
1. Am I Due For Any Vaccinations?
Most people get a flu shot when they come in for their annual exam, but it might not cross your mind to ask about any other vaccines.
After all, who needs to get a shot after they turn 18?
If your doctor has your medical records, they should be able to easily see that you’re due for a vaccination. However, you should make sure that there’s nothing coming up or any vaccinations that you aren’t up to date on.
2. Is My Weight OK?
This is probably an uncomfortable question to ask, especially if you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with your current weight.
However, even if your weight is an obvious concern, your doctor might not say anything about it if you don’t ask.
Ask your doctor if your weight is OK or if you need to lose or gain some weight to be healthier. Your doctor can also help you make necessary plans and set goals to reach your ideal healthy weight.
3. Am I Eating the Right Foods?
If you struggle with your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or another problem or if you’re worried about those issues coming up in the future, ask your doctor if you’re making the right choices when it comes to food.
From discussing your diet with your doctor, they may also be able to identify where you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients or if your diet might be the reason behind some symptoms you’ve been experiencing.
4. Do I Still Need To Take These Medications?
Your doctor might not run through the list of medications you are currently taking, but make sure to ask them if they think you should still be taking everything on your list.
If you feel like something might not be as effective as it used to be, mention that too.
5. Does My Family Health History Put Me at Risk?
There’s a reason your doctor asks about your family health history – it can make a huge difference in whether or not you’re at risk for certain diseases.
Ask your doctor if certain things in your family could be passed down to you and if there’s anything you can do now to prevent or lower the risk for certain diseases.
Mention to your doctor if anything has changed in your family health history since the last time you visited and ask them what those changes could mean for you.
6. Should I Be Getting Any Additional Screenings?
There may be additional screenings or tests that you should be getting annually, but your doctor just might not be thinking of them unless you’re experiencing symptoms that relate.
This is a good time to ask your doctor if there’s anything you should be scheduling in addition to your annual physical.
If you’re a woman, you might be due for a Pap smear or a mammogram. If you’re above a certain age, it may be time for a colonoscopy.
7. Am I Getting Enough Sleep?
Your doctor may ask about your sleeping habits if you’re experiencing symptoms related to insomnia or fatigue, but if everything seems normal, they might not be as concerned.
Still, ask your doctor if you’re getting enough sleep. They may recommend more or less depending on your age, activity level and overall health.
8. Is This Normal?
If you noticed something or are experiencing a pain or sensation that doesn’t feel normal, ask your doctor.
Is it normal that I feel this way when this happens? Is it normal that this happens when I eat this?
Sometimes, it can be scary to ask a doctor about a symptom you’re experiencing. After all, what if something is wrong and isn’t normal?
Asking your doctor can ease your anxiety and get you on the path to health if anything is out of the ordinary.
9. When Do I Need To See You Again?
It’s assumed that you need to see your doctor once a year for your annual physical.
However, some doctors may want to see you more regularly because of certain health concerns. You may also need to come in for a follow-up visit due to something the two of you talked about or for additional testing.
Your doctor might assume that you already know you need to come in again, and if you don’t ask, you may not know when you’re expected to come back.
Make sure to schedule your next appointment at the registration desk before you leave, if you can. This will ensure that you don’t forget or put off an important doctor’s visit.
10. What Should I Do Before My Next Visit?
If you and your doctor discussed issues with your weight, your cholesterol levels or other aspects of your health, there may be certain goals or milestones you need to meet before your next visit.
Ask your doctor if there’s anything you should do or focus on before the next time you see them.
A Different Kind of Doctor Appointment at Essential Health & Wellness
We do things a little differently at Essential Health & Wellness. We challenge the disease management approach of conventional primary care.
Our care providers work with you to build a relationship centered on trust and to help you reach your health and wellness goals. We offer direct primary care and concierge care, as well as wellness programs, nutrition coaching and more.
We don’t believe you should wait for 30 minutes in a waiting room just to spend 15 minutes with your doctor.
We believe in personalized care and matching every patient with a care provider who understands and knows their medical history and their life. At Essential Health & Wellness, we want to be your partner on your journey towards optimum health.
If you’re frustrated with conventional medicine, contact us today for a free Meet & Greet with one of our board-certified functional medicine and integrative medicine care providers.