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What you can expect from your annual physical exam

Annual physical exams are an excellent way to take a proactive approach to your health care.

Reviews of your health history
Share your past health history. Your provider will also talk with you about behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, sexual health, diet and exercise. It is also the time to check on your vaccination status and update your personal and family medical history.

Vital signs
Check your blood pressure and heart rate.

Heart exam
Listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

Head and neck exam
Opening up and saying “ah” shows off your throat and tonsils. Ears, nose, sinuses, eyes, lymph nodes, thyroid and carotid arteries are also examined.

Abdominal Exam
Using examination techniques including tapping your abdomen to detect liver size and presence of abdominal fluid, listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope, and feeling for tenderness.

Neurological exam
Nerves, muscle strength, reflexes, balance and mental state are assessed.

Physicals should emphasize prevention

The annual physical exam is a great opportunity to refocus your attention on prevention and screening.

  • At age 50, it is time to begin regular screening for colorectal cancer. People with immediate family members with colorectal cancer may need to be screened before age 50.
  • For most women, age 40 marks the time to begin annual mammogram screening for breast cancer.
  • Everyone should have their cholesterol check every five years after age 20, according to the America Heart Association.

For most insurance plans a routine physical exam is preventative care. Should you discuss other health concerns and problems with your provider during a physical exam, it is considered a problem-focused exam. Both a physical and a problem focused exam will be reflected on your explanation of benefits statement and you may be subject to a co-pay for the problem –focused exam.