Getting your annual physical

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When was the last time you had a physical? If you’re like 38 percent of Americans, you might not remember. That’s okay: Make 2019 the year you set up an appointment to see your primary care physician. Use this opportunity to get baseline numbers on your health while discussing concerns or asking questions. Here’s what to expect when you go.

Vitals

A nurse or medical technician will measure your blood pressure and temperature and record your pulse, breathing rate, height and weight.

Exams

Your doctor will perform some checks that require only verbal or written responses about your personal and family medical history. Other exams include:

  • Head, neck and tonsils: Your doctor will feel your head and neck to check for inflamed tonsils, swollen lymph nodes and other abnormalities.
  • Lungs and heart: Your doctor will listen to your heart and breath.
  • Abdominal: Your doctor will put gentle pressure on your abdomen to check your organs and might listen to your stomach sounds.
  • Age- and gender-specific exams.

Lab tests

Your doctor likely will have an in-office or offsite lab perform a urinalysis and take blood to do a complete blood count, and check your cholesterol and fasting blood sugar. If you are in treatment for cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other health problems, these tests are particularly important. You can also request a screening for sexually transmitted infections.

In the weeks leading up to your exam, write down question or concerns and take them with you. Try to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to complete paperwork and update your information. Ask when making your appointment if you need to fast for bloodwork. Most importantly, don’t feel embarrassed or worry. An annual physical might feel a bit awkward, but you’ll be glad to know your current health status.

Allison Goldberg writes and edits employee benefits-related materials for the Insurance and Financial Services Dept. of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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