Thinking about skipping your annual checkup? You may want to think again.
There might be reasons why a yearly physical moves to the bottom of your “to do” list, but an appointment on your calendar – and sticking to it – puts you in better control of your health.
“Even if you are feeling healthy, it’s important to have an annual checkup with your primary care doctor, especially as you get older,” says Dr. Marwan Baghdan, an internal medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “This is a time to have an open dialogue about any concerns you may have, discuss a plan to maintain your health and determine if you are due for any recommended screenings and tests.”
Timing, adds Dr. Baghdan, can help you stay on track with your exam.
“I encourage patients to have an exam early in the year, so it doesn’t fall off the radar,” he says. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are five reasons you should make an annual checkup a priority:
- Create a roadmap: Having an annual checkup each year provides your doctor with a better picture of your overall health. Your doctor can refer back to your health record to identify any changes. This allows for a discussion on adjustments that need to be made to keep you healthy.
- Catch a disease early in its tracks: You may not always notice symptoms of a progressive disease, such as cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease, until it has become advanced. An annual exam can help your doctor identify a disease early, when treatment is most effective.
- Update your medications and immunizations: You may be taking medications that are no longer necessary, or you may need to add one to your daily routine. You also can discuss the opportunity for dosage changes. And while you are there, you can get an annual flu shot and discuss other immunizations.
- Get the right diagnosis: Searching the internet is not always the best idea when you aren’t feeling well. It’s important to leave the diagnosis up to your doctor. You can use the exam as time to share symptoms you are experiencing.
- Save money: Catching a disease early may reduce the need for high-cost tests and medications once it has progressed to a more advanced stage. And, building a relationship with your primary care doctor can help you plan ahead rather than make an expensive trip to the emergency room in the future.
“During your exam, you can expect your doctor to discuss your health history, take your vitals, review your physical appearance and discuss your medications,” Dr. Baghdan says. “To make the most of your visit, come prepared with a list of questions and concerns, along with all of your medications, including over-the-counter treatments.”
It’s important to check with your health insurance provider to see if an annual exam is covered in your plan. Medicare patients have a benefit to receive an annual wellness visit each year.