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Top 9 Questions to Ask at Your Annual Physical Exam

Written by 
Feyi Aworunse

Article at a glance

  • Your annual physical is an important part of taking care of your overall health and wellness. Asking your primary care provider the right questions will help you address your health concerns and understand your health status, as well as what you can do to improve or maintain it.

  • Your doctor will be able to give you the information you need to understand your medical conditions, test results and medications.

  • As we get older, we are at risk of developing certain conditions. Your primary care provider will be able to let you know what preventive screenings or vaccinations you may need.

  • Be sure to ask your doctor when and how often you should follow up, whether you need to see a specialist and what lifestyle changes you can make to improve your health.

  • Write down your questions ahead of time, take notes and ask follow-up questions.

Your annual physical exam is an opportunity for you and your doctor to discuss your health concerns, screen for diseases, and create a plan for improving your health and wellness. Even if you feel well and aren’t having any issues, it’s important to keep up with your annual check-up. Aside from the physical exam and testing, the conversation you have with your primary care provider (PCP) about your health is a vital part of your care. Your visit is an opportunity to develop a relationship with your primary care provider so you can feel comfortable reaching out for answers to any issues you may experience between your annual check-ups. To get the most out of your annual physical exam, here are 9 questions you can ask your doctor to help you understand your health and what you can do to maintain or improve it.

Are the signs or symptoms I’m experiencing normal?

Discuss any symptoms or changes in your physical or mental health that concern you, whether they’re big or small. For instance, discuss any new lump or bump, pain, or drastic changes in your weight. Your annual exam is a prime opportunity for your doctor to find out what may be causing that symptom that has you wondering, Is this normal?” If you aren’t having any issues or symptoms at your annual visit, ask your doctor if there are any signs or symptoms you should be aware of and whether an urgent visit would be needed if they arise.

Do any changes need to be made to my medications?

Be sure to review your current medications or supplements during your annual visit, especially if you’re seeing a new doctor. It’s helpful to know whether you’re taking the appropriate medications and if any refills will be needed. If you are having issues with your current medication(s), let your doctor know. If your doctor prescribes a new medicine, ask if there are any side effects or interactions with your current medication(s) that you should be aware of. Make sure you’re comfortable knowing how often and for how long you should take a particular medication. If you have concerns about the cost of a medication, be sure to ask your doctor about your options.

What vaccinations do I need?

As we get older, our immune system gets weaker, making it harder for our body to fight off infections. This makes older people more susceptible to diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and shingles. Complications from these conditions can lead to long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death. Based on your lifestyle and other risk factors, your doctor may recommend specific vaccines that could reduce your risk.

Please explain my test results

Before your examination, your doctor may have requested certain tests that should be done regularly. These results will provide more information about chronic conditions you may have and to determine if you’re at risk for certain diseases or other health problems. Ask your doctor what the test results mean and whether they are normal or not. If your doctor finds any issues, ask what that means and how you can address any problems. By understanding your test results, you will be able to get a better idea of your current health and what you can do to improve it.

Is this problem something that can be treated?

If your doctor makes a diagnosis for a specific disease or health problem, be sure to ask questions about what can be done to manage it. Ask about your treatment options, alternatives and risks involved. Whether it is something that can be cured or a long-term condition that may require a lifestyle change, it’s helpful to know what you will need to do to take care of yourself. If you feel that you may need additional support, or are wondering whether or not you can stick to your new or current treatment plan, bring up those concerns with your provider.

What other health screenings or tests do I need?

Depending on your age and other risk factors, your doctor may recommend additional screening tests for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, colorectal cancer, and heart disease. If you’re female, your doctor may recommend screenings for breast or cervical cancer. For males, screenings for prostate cancer are recommended. Be sure to share with your doctor if you have any personal or family history of certain cancers or diseases, as this may increase your risk.

Do I need to see a specialist?

Usually, your primary care provider will be your first point of contact for your health concerns. While your primary care doctor can address many of your health issues, sometimes you may need the care of a specialist. If there is anything found during your exam that requires a referral to a specialist, or if you need additional help managing your current medical condition(s), your primary care physician (PCP) can explain the next steps in your care plan.

What can I do to prevent a health problem or improve my health?

Aside from treating your health issues, your doctor wants to make sure you have the information you need to improve your health and prevent other problems from occurring. Ask about what changes you should make in your diet, certain physical activities you can participate in, or what habits you should start or stop.

Will I need a follow-up exam sooner than one year?

Ask your doctor’s opinion on the best follow-up schedule for you. Based on your current health or risk factors, your doctor may want to see you sooner or more frequently than once a year. Also, be sure to ask what you should do in the event of having a sudden illness or symptoms. Your primary care provider may be able to see you for urgent visits, allowing you to avoid the emergency room for minor illnesses.

It’s easy to forget what you wanted to discuss with your doctor by the time you get into the office, so come prepared. Be sure to write down any questions you may have and list them in order of what’s important to you. When you see the doctor, take notes and ask follow-up questions to make sure you understand everything that’s being discussed. If you need more information, ask your provider where you can getadditional resources. Remember that your annual physical is an opportunity for you and your primary care provider to create a plan to improve your health and wellness.

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