Time to Get a Physical
So, I’ve seen a bunch of doctors lately. Not because I’m sick, but because I save everything for the off season so my husband can take me to any tests that I may have to have.
I had surgery to remove a cyst in my wrist just about a month ago, and have to go get an upper endoscopy in a couple weeks. I get one every few years since I have stomach/digestive issues. Since the office frowns on letting you drive after having narcotics, I cram it all in so my husband can help me.
I’m really bad about regularly seeing my doctors, though. I get sick, and then I go. Something hurts, then I’m there. I think that’s really the case for most of us adults.
As a child, you had to have yearly physicals for school. But many of us don’t continue that habit.
Why?? Well, I can tell you that if my mom says the names of my childhood doctors, I get the shivers. One of them, I immediately associate with shots and then the lollipop. (Can we just go straight to the sweets please, or skip it altogether?!)
Why It’s Important
A regular physical exam is an essential step in preventative health, according to EHE+Me.com. How many times have you heard someone say, “I should have gone to the doctor sooner. I just put it off.” Diseases and illnesses are easier to treat the sooner that they are found, in most cases.
A physical also gives you a snapshot of your current health so that you can make changes and adjustments to your lifestyle, or add a medication if necessary.
Of course, we don’t want to hear that we need to lose weight, lower our cholesterol, watch our blood sugar or that our blood pressure is elevated. Chances are we may know it, but when your doctor says it, it becomes more real and scary. Regardless, regular physicals are important and can help improve the quality of your life.
What to Expect
So, it’s been a while…or 10 years since your last physical. Maybe you’re just not sure what to expect at your appointment.
First and foremost, be honest! You have to have open communication with your healthcare team if you hope to get the most from your appointment. They will guide you through questions, but you have to answer truthfully. If you don’t, your doctor is not getting the full picture of your health and lifestyle.
Some of the exam is visual. Checking your eyes, ears, looking at your skin, etc. They will also then use their hands: palpating neck and abdomen, motor function and reflexes. While you are talking they are evaluating your speech. They may also have you walk to see if they see are any balance issues or other concerns. They take your height, weight, blood pressure, pulse and temperature. All of these are non-invasive. However, you’ll probably need to do blood work as well.
It is amazing the amount of information that a healthcare team can gather from your blood work.
On my last physical, mine showed low levels of iron and vitamin D. Doc asked me to get out in the sun for about 10 minutes once a week without sunscreen and use a supplement for iron and vitamin D. I have food allergies, so the iron thing was not that surprising, as I can’t eat as many iron-rich foods as my body needs.
The results also test your cholesterol, blood sugar and chemistry. These can indicate if you need further testing on your kidneys or liver, for example. So, even if you hate needles, think of the good steps you’ll be taking for improved health!
Other Preventative Tests
As women, it’s also essential to head to the gynecologist every year. In some cases, your regular yearly exam can be done at your internist, if you don’t have any issues. It’s a screening process that can show you if everything is looking good, or it could indicate if you might need further testing.
Depending on your age, you might also be getting a mammogram and osteoporosis screening.
This may happen for younger women with a family history of breast cancer or osteoporosis. Even if you feel fine, don’t neglect it. Female members of my family call it the big squeeze. So very uncomfortable, but we do have a history of breast cancer in our family, so nobody is skipping it.
If you have an ongoing issue, you may need to see your specialist yearly, or more often as needed. Those with fibromyalgia, arthritis or cardiovascular disease may need more regular care than once a year. Even some people on acne medication need regular blood tests as some meds can affect liver function.
Even if you’re looking good and the tests come back clear, your doctor may give you some healthy lifestyle tips: eat right, exercise, avoid alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, etc. You may think that you don’t need to change anything since you’re healthy.
We should never take our health for granted. Continue healthy habits and begin to implement others so that you can keep your health in good shape. And as a result, live a long, happy life.