QUESTION: How important is an annual physical?
ANSWER: The annual physical is important in three different ways.
First, the annual physical can help discover any new medical conditions or problems you may have before these conditions have a chance to get out of control. When your provider sees you on a yearly basis she/he becomesfamiliar with your normal or baseline health, which makes it easier to pick up on a new problem and provide treatment before the problem becomes severe.
Second, having an annual physical gives you and your provider a chance to monitor any existing chronic conditions that you may have, such as hypertension, asthma, or diabetes, and close monitoring leads toa better chance of controlling these conditions, which in turn helps prevent or reduce the risk of complications or severe outcomes from these conditions.
Third, your annual physical is important also to help set the course for your regular medical care and health maintenance over the next several years or even decades of your life. This is the time to discuss your preventative care such as maintaining vaccinations, getting yearly labwork, getting referrals for recommended screenings, such as colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer or bone density scans for detecting osteoporosis. The goal of annual physicals is to help maintain your optimum health and reduce the risk of negative, serious health outcomes.
This question from a reader was answered by Nancy Roberts, PA-C. She practices at Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg.