An annual checkup is good for your health – in more ways than one

f1f8b187057cedaeff9a4f0f806306f2Getting an annual checkup is important, even if you’re healthy. Visiting your primary care provider (PCP) every year for regular preventive care gives you the best chance of staying healthy. PCPs can identify potential health issues before they cause long-term damage, and if your provider finds an issue, treatment can begin right away. Finding health problems early helps make treatment more effective.

Someone you can trust

Annual checkups, also called annual physicals, help you build a relationship with your PCP so you feel safe and comfortable sharing information about your health. During each visit, your PCP asks you about your family health history and current health issues and concerns. Over time, they get to know as much about you and your health as possible, identifying areas of concern, addressing your specific needs, and offering healthy lifestyle advice. If you become ill between visits, you’ll have easy access to a provider you know and trust.

Your PCP can give you:

  • Prescriptions and other treatment recommendations
  • Preventive screenings and tests
  • Referrals to see specialists, if needed
  • Vaccinations

How to prepare for an annual checkup

Before your appointment, try to gather as much of your medical information as you can. In addition, bring your medication bottles so you can ask your provider questions about each medication. Your PCP’s office will also tell you which documents to bring, such as:

  • A health risk assessment (if you’ve had one)
  • Complete family and personal medical history
  • Insurance cards
  • List of current medical and mental health providers
  • List of current prescriptions and supplements, or bring the containers with you
  • Recent screening and lab test results
  • Vaccination records

It’s also helpful to bring a notebook and something to write with in case you want to take notes. Some people also like to bring a friend or family member for support.

What to expect at an annual checkup

An annual checkup includes a physical exam and a close review of your past and present health. The elements of the physical exam are tailored to your needs and may include blood pressure checks, weight measurements, and other tests. Your PCP will also discuss cancer screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, you may need, depending on your age and other factors.

If you’re at increased risk for certain health conditions, your PCP may recommend blood tests and other screenings.

Mental health matters

Your mental health is another important part of your overall wellness. Your annual checkup includes screenings for mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, so be prepared to answer questions about your mood and if you’re dealing with any stress. Be honest. Mental health issues can affect your quality of life and impact your physical health. They can also be treated like any other health condition.

Be sure to ask any questions you might have. Sometimes it can feel awkward to talk about certain things, but it’s perfectly normal to discuss how you’re feeling — and your provider will be glad you did.

Annual visits after age 65

Medicare covers annual wellness visits for adults age 65 and older who have had Medicare Part B for more than a year. These visits are similar to — but not the same as — the annual checkup you had when you were younger.

Before an annual wellness visit, you might be asked to complete a health risk assessment that gives you and your PCP information about current and future health risks. You’ll review the results during your visit. Annual wellness visits also include blood pressure and weight checks, as annual physicals do, but they also include screenings for dementia and hearing loss.

Medicare coverage for annual wellness visits differs from coverage for annual physicals, which need to be scheduled separately.

Don’t forget vaccinations

During your annual checkup, your PCP can make sure you’re following the recommended vaccine schedule. Vaccines provide complete protection at every stage of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following vaccinations for adults age 19 or older:

  • Flu: Annually
  • Hepatitis B (HepB): Two to four doses
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): Two or three doses depending on when the initial dose was administered
  • Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR): One or two doses
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap): One dose with boosters every 10 years
  • Varicella: Two doses

Ready to schedule your annual checkup? Find a primary care provider at Reid.

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