What to expect at your annual checkup
Everyone should have an annual physical for overall health, but what exactly are doctors looking for and what can you expect at a checkup?
While in some ways that can depend on the patient, there are certain tests that are standard during a yearly checkup, explains Dr. Katarzyna Scigacz, an Advocate Medical Group internal medicine physician.
And it’s important not to skip those annual visits with a primary care provider, Dr. Scigacz says. Having a checkup every year provides your doctor with a better picture of your overall health, offers the perfect time to update any medications and discuss annual vaccinations like a flu shot, and can even catch a health issue early, she says.
“Oftentimes, if we can identify something in its early stage, or if someone is at risk, we can help mitigate,” she says.
Here’s what to expect each year at your checkup, according to Dr. Scigacz:
- Blood pressure: This important reading measures the pressure that is put on your artery walls. Some people only get a blood pressure reading when they visit a doctor. Others may have to take regular readings for certain health conditions.
- Weight: Even if jumping on the scale isn’t your favorite thing, your doctor needs to know if it’s creeping up, or down.
- Medical history: If you have a family history of a disease or condition, doctors will know what to screen for and you will know more about your risks. For example, prediabetes doesn’t have symptoms and can soon turn into diabetes. Knowing family history can determine appropriate precautions and screenings.
- Blood tests: Doctors will order a series of standard blood tests to look for abnormalities, but also to determine your baseline. That can include labs that show thyroid, kidney and liver function, along with a complete blood count.
- Mental health: More providers are now screening for depression. Sometimes patients won’t volunteer information related to their mood unless they’re directly asked.
- Immunization: Doctors will recommend a flu shot, especially during certain times of the year.
Dr. Scigacz says doctors could also include other tests or screenings, depending on a patient’s age, gender and other factors. That can include recommending a mammogram, offering an STI screening or other tests. Many also take the opportunity to remind patients to seek out dental and vision screenings, she adds.
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About the Author
Kate Thayer, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care. She spent nearly two decades as a journalist, most recently as a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. Throughout her career, Kate has written about public health, politics, government, education and legal issues, along with human interest stories. She enjoys running, podcasts and her twin daughters.