Annual Physical Examinations
Medical History: This is your opportunity to mention any issues or health concerns that you may currently have, and this is also your provider’s opportunity to learn about your personal and family medical history, your lifestyle and behaviors, and your vaccination status. Questions you can expect include those about smoking habits, alcohol use, sexual health, diet, and exercise.
Vital Signs: Your vital signs will be checked during your examination to make sure everything is normal. This includes your blood pressure, heart rate, respiration rate, and temperature.
General Appearance: By watching and talking to you, your provider can gather a lot of information about your general health. They will pay attention to your memory and mental quickness, the appearance of your skin, how easily you can stand and walk, and more.
Heart Exam: Your provider will listen to your heart with a stethoscope, monitoring for signs of an irregular heartbeat, a heart murmur, or other indicators of heart disease.
Lung Exam: Using a stethoscope, your provider will listen to your lungs while you inhale and exhale, monitoring for crackles, wheezes, or decreased breath sounds that could indicate heart or lung disease.
Head and Neck Exam: Your provider will ask you to open your mouth and say “ah,” which helps to show them your throat and tonsils, and they will also visually take note of the quality of your teeth and gums. Your provider will also visually examine your eyes, ears, and nose, and physically examine your neck in order to assess the health of your sinuses, lymph nodes, thyroid, and carotid arteries.
Periodic Health Maintenance
Under 30: If you live a healthy lifestyle and don’t have any known disease factors, consider getting a physical every two to three years. Sexually active women should begin getting pap smears to screen for cervical cancer by the age of 21, and should then speak to their physician about the frequency at which they should repeat this test.
Age 30 to 40: Healthy adults between the ages of 30 and 40 should consider getting a physical examination every other year.
Age 40 to 50: Healthy adults between the ages of 40 and 50 can generally still continue to get a physical examination every other year, but women should get a baseline mammogram beginning at age 40, and repeat them every 1 to 2 years.
Age 50 and Older: Once adults reach age 50, it is a good idea to start getting annual physicals, since this is the age at which many adults begin to experience more health issues in general. This is also the age at which healthy adults with no family history of colon cancer should begin getting colonoscopies (though this is not an annual screening unless the patient has a family history, colon polyps, or abnormal test results).