When you’re not feeling well, one of the first questions you ask yourself is if you need to see a doctor. After all, your primary care physician can diagnose your illness and get you back on the path to health and wellness.
But, being sick isn’t the only reason to see your doctor. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, a longtime Emergency Department nurse and mom of three, shares why it’s so important to see your doctor once a year for a wellness exam.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SEE MY DOCTOR FOR AN ANNUAL EXAM?
Nurse Rose: It can be easy to think that, since you’re healthy and feel fine, that you don’t need to see a doctor. However, your annual wellness exam – also often called a physical – is an important opportunity to check in with your provider. It helps establish and continue the relationship you have with your doctor, offers the chance for you to ask any questions and allows your provider to assess your health.
This appointment is the first step in preventing, diagnosing and managing chronic conditions – including things like high blood pressure, diabetes or prediabetes, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety and much more.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE ANNUAL EXAM?
Nurse Rose: One of the most important things that happens at your annual exam is the conversation that takes place between you and your provider. It gives you the chance to share health changes over the last year, new or troubling symptoms and questions or concerns you may have about your health.
Your doctor will listen closely and create a plan to address your questions or, if needed, order additional testing.
Of course, there is also a physical exam. This will check your:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Respiration rate
Based on your age, gender and risk factors (including your medical history and family history), your provider may also order a:
- Blood panel to check blood sugar levels, cholesterol and more. Results can help you and your doctor create a plan to help you reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, anemia and more.
- Cancer screenings. Cancer screenings are a proven tool in detecting cancer in its earlier stages when it’s easier to treat. Screenings depend on your age and gender, which may include
- Pelvic exams and pap smears (women)
- Breast exams and mammograms (women)
- Prostate exams (men)
- Colorectal cancer screenings (men and women)
HOW CAN I REMEMBER TO SCHEDULE MY WELLNESS EXAM?
Nurse Rose: Many of us are managing families, work, friends and long to-do lists in our daily lives, so it’s no wonder that seeing the doctor when we’re feeling fine slips off the list. But, your health is a priority. Keep your wellness exam top of mind with a few simple tips:
- Schedule your appointment at the same time of year, like around your birthday or at the start of each school year, so it’s easier to remember.
- Treat yourself after your appointment with a sweet (and healthy!) dessert, new book or time to yourself.