What to Expect at Yearly Checkups | Revere Health

A yearly checkup is a way for people of all ages and health levels to keep tabs on their bodies. A brief examination, also called a physical, is one of the easiest ways to detect problems early and monitor existing issues.

Some people don’t make an appointment every single year, though, and for those who do, a full 12 months can be a long time between visits. With that in mind, here are a few basic things to expect when heading in for your yearly checkup.

Physical Exam Facts

There’s no standard operating procedure for yearly physicals within any realm of medicine as different doctors approach the process in different ways. However, there are several elements most people can expect in some form or another when they head in for their yearly checkup. Many of these are simple, in-person examinations the doctor can perform with nothing more than their hands and a tool or two.

Some of the basics include:

Vital Signs:

This checkup is present in every physical around the world. In fact, it’s so standard that it’s often performed by a nurse before the doctor even enters the room. These tests check on some of the body’s most basic processes. They include:

  • Heart rate: Anything over 100 beats per minute or below 60 beats per minute is outside normal range.
  • Blood pressure: This comes out as a two-number reading, with 140 over 90 functioning as the cutoff point for high blood pressure.
  • Body temperature: Doctors or nurses will only address concerns here if readings are significantly far away from the body’s natural temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Breathing rate: Found by a doctor or nurse pressing a stethoscope up against the lungs and listening. Breathing often signals lung issues.

Lungs and Heart:

In addition to checking basic rates for these areas, doctors will also check for the quality levels of breathing and heartbeats. They listen for abnormal activity which can signal problems that might not be detected simply by checking the rate. If anything unusual is detected, your doctor may order more in-depth tests.

History and Appearance:

Your entire medical history should be available to your doctor in these modern times, and a yearly physical is a chance to add any new information here and check on old information. Your doctor needs to know if there have been any major lifestyle changes since your last checkup, and they can put this information to use when combined with things like your family and personal history.

In many cases, a doctor won’t need anything more than a good look at you and a reference back to previous years to detect some changes.

Other Exams:

While the above categories are the primary bedrocks of most physical exams. Several others are common as well:

  • Head and neck: With a few lights in your face and pokes in your ears, your doctor can check on the status of everything from your tonsils to your eyes.
  • Abdomen: This is to check on organs like the liver or areas like the bowels.
  • Skin: A simple visual examination is generally all that’s needed.
  • Neurology: Checks on balance and reflexes – think of every time your doctor has made you involuntarily kick the air by tapping your knee in the right place.

Gender-Specific Exams

Some of the most important processes in a yearly physical involve checks on gender-specific areas. These are pretty simple tests for the most part.

Males:

  • Penis and testicles: Your doctor generally checks for any infections on the surface, or any lumps within the testicles that may indicate larger issues.
  • Prostate: An exam that becomes more frequent as men age, this involves a doctor inserting a finger in the patient’s rectum to feel the prostate.
  • Hernia exam: Checks for weakness of the abdominal wall between the intestines and the scrotum.

Females:

  • Breasts: Primarily to check for cancerous lumps
  • Pelvis: Involves a check for infections or other conditions in the vagina and cervix.

Lab Exams

Most commonly in the form of a routine blood test or urine analysis, a basic lab test can help detect certain conditions that might not have been found otherwise. You may be asked to come in and perform these tests a few days in advance of your actual physical exam.

Do You Really Need a Yearly Checkup?

There are debates within the medical community about whether a yearly physical is truly necessary for everyone. It’s rare that these checkups leave people noticeably healthier, and some suggest that many tests involved in the process can cause more issues than they solve. There’s always cost to think about, as well.

Regular preventative care, however, has saved too many lives to count, and many find this benefit outweighs the risks. In either case, simply keeping up an open line of communication with a doctor you can trust is something everyone agrees is a smart move.

Brandon Hall, MD

Revere Health’s family medical practice in Lehi specializes in weight control, depression management, skin care, hormone replacement, cardiac conditions and cholesterol management, and we strive to provide our patients and their families with quality healthcare services. The number one way to provide safe, effective healthcare is to educate patients and make sure I listen to and understand their story and what they want to get out of their healthcare.

Sources:

“Annual Physical Examinations.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/annual-physical-examinations#1

“Health Checkups.” ChoosingWisely.org. http://www.choosingwisely.org/patient-resources/health-checkups/

“Check-Ups are Important.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/family/checkup/

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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