June 2017

The Annual Physical

Author: Dr. Christopher LeBlanc

One of the most essential things you can do to promote your own health is have a quality annual physical. Contrary to popular belief, there are no absolutes in a routine physical. A physician may be thorough, or very brief, based on the number of patients he or she is trying to see, and the amount of time allotted for each patient. Here are a few of the essentials that should be covered during your physical.

First and foremost, your personal history must be discussed. This is your chance to mention any changes or concerns about your health. This is also the time your physician should review components of your history like family, social, and medical history as well as review and update your medications and immunizations. Your history is the foundation on which a good physical is built. For a physician to treat you appropriately, he or she must know who you are!

The next most significant portion of your physical is the preventive screening. Based on your age and personal history, your physician may choose to order certain tests that screen for diseases such as cancer. Finding a disease that can be treated in its earliest stages or avoided altogether is the goal of preventive screening. This may include tests such as mammograms, PAP smears and bone density exams for women, or prostate and aneurysm screening for men. It may also include colon cancer screening or newer testing such as lung cancer screening for former smokers. Again, this is where your history and age will become crucial to determine which tests are appropriate for you.

Updating your immunizations is key to avoid certain diseases. Depending on your age and medical history, these may include a pneumonia, tetanus, and shingles vaccines, or an annual flu vaccine. Your history is, once again, key to determine what you’ll need to avoid these dangerous infections.

Once your history and preventive medicine have been updated, the next portion of your physical should be the exam itself. Sadly, this is quickly becoming a thing of the past, with shortened office visits that patients are experiencing, but it is paramount! This commences by evaluating your vital signs. The vital signs help determine if your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature are within the normal limits to signal the physician to an underlying condition. After the vital signs, a complete examination should follow. The physician should evaluate you from head to toe, including a full skin evaluation. Women will often need to follow up with their OB/GYN for their routine gynecological evaluation. This is also your chance to bring up any physical complaints that may be ailing you. The physical examination is imperative, in my opinion, and not something to be taken lightly or overlooked.

Another critical component of the physical examination is the serologic and diagnostic evaluation of each patient. Diagnostic in-office evaluations may include an EKG or urinary analysis. Having blood work performed can often uncover issues that the individual cannot feel, but undoubtedly are affecting the body. Using your history, once again, the physician will choose what specific tests are most appropriate. Medicine has come a long way in the past 20 years, and so has the sophistication of your lab work. With the advent of tests like inflammatory markers and more sensitive cholesterol and blood glucose testing, physicians can uncover issues much earlier and treat more appropriately. You should discuss whether advanced lab testing is appropriate for you with your physician.

Based on the testing and history, your physician should finish your annual physical with recommendations that are specific to you regarding your diet, exercise and supplements. This may differ dramatically based on the individual, and there is not one diet and exercise regimen that will fit everyone. Everything from your medical history to your busy work schedule should be considered when determining the best approach in achieving your health goals.

Your body is one of your most important assets, and your annual physical is top priority to maintain it in optimum condition. At Vital Personalized Healthcare, we spend at least an hour on your physical exam each year, because we believe it takes time and the appropriate attention to live your best life. Our personalized healthcare approach puts preventive medicine at the forefront of your care and returns the quality, time and access to your medical care to the way it used to be! 

Dr. Christopher LeBlanc is a family medicine physician. Vital Personalized Healthcare is located at 23 Plantation Park Dr., Suite 401 B, Bluffton. For more information, visit vitalpersonalizedhealthcare.com or call (843) 815-5566 for an appointment.

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