The Key to Better Health? Scheduling an Annual Physical Exam

annual check up

An annual exam is the cornerstone of a healthier, happier life. Even if you feel healthy, seeing your primary care provider annually can help you stay healthy and even catch potential issues before they happen.

What is an annual exam?

An annual exam, also known as a preventive check-up, is a comprehensive health assessment conducted by a healthcare professional. At your annual exam, your primary care provider will get to know you and your health history, concerns and screening needs. It also provides a time to pause and assess your risks for certain diseases and to monitor conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. It typically includes a physical examination, screenings and discussions about your medial history and lifestyle.

Why should I get an annual exam?

There are many reasons to get an annual exam, the most significant being improving your overall health and wellness. There are four more reasons why an annual exam is important.

Reason #1: Early detection of health issues

One of the primary reasons for an annual exam is the opportunity for early detection of potential health issues. Regular screenings and tests can catch and manage conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease that would otherwise fly under the radar.

“It is common for a patient to walk in and have no idea that they have been living with an underlying condition because they have not seen their doctor in the past few years,” said Katie Kerr, CRNP, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Penn Highlands Family Medicine in Ridgway, Penn. “Annual exams can help catch issues earlier when they may be easier to treat.”

Reason #2: Preventive care and immunizations

Annual exams are an ideal time to ensure that you are up to date with vaccinations and immunizations. Staying on top of preventive measures can protect you from various illnesses and help you stay healthy all year long.

Reason # 3: Establishing a baseline for your health

By monitoring changes over time, healthcare providers can identify patterns and deviations, enabling them to tailor their advice and interventions according to your individual needs.

“When we see you every year, we better understand how your body works and what is ‘normal’ for you, depending on your health history and lifestyle,” said Katie. “We can then make more accurate assessments and recommendations.”

Reason # 4: A holistic approach to well-being

Beyond physical health, annual exams often include discussions about your mental and emotional well-being. This holistic approach allows your doctor to address stressors, mental health concerns and lifestyle factors that impact your overall health.

“The discussion of mental health has become more frequent in doctors’ offices in recent years, and we want to address those issues during an annual check-up,” said Katie. “If you are struggling with mental health, we can refer you to a mental health provider.”

An annual exam is not just a routine appointment; it is a proactive investment in your health. By scheduling regular check-ups, you empower yourself to detect and address potential health issues early on, paving the way for a longer, healthier life.

If you are due or overdue for an annual physical, Penn Highlands Healthcare can help. The health system offers physicians and providers who specialize in family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics — for every stage of life. To find a provider near you, visit www.phhealthcare.org/findadoc.