(BlackDoctor.org) — This year you mean it, you tell yourself — you’re going to commit to making lifestyle changes to improve your well-being. If you want to stay in good health, you can start by scheduling an appointment with your doctor for a complete health check. That way, you’ll know what to work on in 2011.
The Importance of Health Check-Ups
Think of health check-ups as a way to prevent disease. Prevention occurs before you have signs and symptoms. Physical exams can identify risk factors and help ward off the development of a possible lifelong chronic illness.
Another reason to have a medical exam is for your doctor to pinpoint where you can improve your habits. Your doctor can serve as your coach and help you stay on the path to good health. Doctors can also offer screening tests to help detect any health problems early on and start you on treatment.
What to Expect at a Physical Exam Appointment
The frequency with which you visit your doctor for a physical exam will vary depending on your age, sex, and medical history. Your physical exam may involve blood work, or it may just be a conversation between you and your doctor to talk about your risk factors, family medical history, and overall health status.
By age 19 everyone should establish a relationship with a health practitioner, one that can translate into years of good health. Body mass index (BMI) screening and blood pressure checks are essentials for everyone and you shouldn’t go for long stretches of five or 10 years without them. Every two years is a good standard for most young, healthy individuals to get a basic physical exam that includes these screenings.
A regular medical exam with your doctor — now called a “health appraisal” rather than a physical exam — is also an opportunity to evaluate your mental health, giving your doctor the opportunity to spot any signs of depression, which can then be treated and managed.
Health Check-Ups for Women
Women simply can’t skip their mammograms. At age 40, women need a mammogram every one to two years; at age 50, the screening should be done annually. Women with a family history need earlier and sometimes more frequent screening.