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Haven’t Seen Your Doctor

Posted 9/21/2017 by UHBlog

If you haven't had a physical in years, it's time to scrap the excuses. We can help you maximize your visit and get the most out of a yearly physical exam.

Haven't Seen Your Doctor?

Are you one of those people who hasn't seen a primary care physician (PCP) for years and can't remember the last time you went in for an annual physical examination?

As you get older, talking to your doctor at least once a year takes on added importance to your health and well-being, says family medicine specialist Myra Mark, MD.

“It's important that you know what your health status is and to get health screenings for things like diabetes and high blood pressure,” Dr. Mark says. “These are not necessarily done every year when you are young, but by the time you hit 50 years or older, a yearly physical becomes more important. Especially for concerns like high blood pressure that often don’t show symptoms but are easily assessed during the physical.”

A physical exam also is a good time to talk about the various screening tests you should consider. For instance, current guidelines recommend these screening tests in people ages 50 and older:

  • Blood pressure measurement because high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye damage and kidney failure
  • Blood sugar assessment to check for diabetes, a condition that contributes to heart disease, kidney problems, blindness and nerve damage
  • Whole-body skin assessments to look for early indications of skin cancer
  • Blood work to test for elevated cholesterol, thyroid disease, hepatitis and kidney disease
  • Gender-specific tests , such as Pap smears, mammograms and bone density studies for women and prostate exams for men

Additionally, getting a yearly physical lets you and your doctor discuss other aspects of health care, including:

  • Are your vaccinations up to date?
  • Do you need a colonoscopy to look for early signs of colon cancer?
  • Are you a candidate for a CT scan screening for lung cancer or coronary artery calcium?

“Everyone should have a medical 'home' established with a physician who knows your history,” says Dr. Mark. “This ensures that disease screening is performed at proper intervals, that your medication regimen is optimized and that your vaccination status is current. Your PCP is also the person who can help coordinate treatment among other specialists if necessary.”

Getting the most out of the time with your doctor does require a little planning. Write down questions or concerns as they occur, since you might forget them in the ensuing months between your yearly exams, and bring your list to your appointment.

Your notes might include:

  • Listing of all medications you are taking, including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medications, and/or any diet supplements or herbs.
  • Any special diets that you follow - whether suggested by a doctor or one you found on your own.
  • Any changes that may have occurred since you last saw a PCP. This can include any surgeries or other treatments, changes to either yours or your family's medical history, and whether you're seeing a new specialist or have been to the emergency room recently.
  • Any questions or concerns you want to cover, such as symptoms you have or changes in your appetite, weight, sleep or energy level. It's also good to ask about a medical condition you don't understand and ask for any medications that need to be reordered.

“Doctors are allotted more time with you during a physical examination,” Dr. Mark says. “We can delve into topics that we normally just wouldn’t have time to pursue when someone is sick.”

Myra Mark, MD, is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Ghent Family Practice. You can request an appointment with Dr. Mark or any doctor online.

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