What to Expect for Your Health Check
Whether you are a young adult or “age gifted” senior citizen, it’s important to review your current state of health as well as to develop a plan to maintain or improve your future well-being. This is best accomplished by scheduling a complete check-up with your primary care physician. In this way you can develop a personalized “health plan” for life.
THE STARTING LINE
First and foremost, how are you feeling? Your doctor will ask questions about:
- Your overall energy levels
- Sleeping patterns (lack of restful sleep is most common cause of fatigue)
- Ability to carry out the demands of daily living (going up and down stairs, running errands, etc.)
- If you’re anxious or depressed
- Family history – certain diseases that affected your parents, siblings and close relatives can also affect you
Next, your physician will ask about physical symptoms such as:
- Are you having any pain? If so, where is it located and when does it occur?
- Do you get short of breath, wheeze, have a persistent cough or have difficulty taking a deep breath?
- Do you experience irregular or a rapid heartbeat?
- Do you have any tingling or numbness?
- Have you had any unexplained weight loss or weight gain?
- Do you have any difficulty or a change in urination patterns or movement of your bowels?
- Have you had any new or changes in moles on your skin?
- Do you have any restriction in the movement of your head, neck, back or extremities?
- Have you experienced any change or difficulty in vision, hearing, taste, touch or smell?
YOUR HEALTH = YOUR CHOICES
What we do and what we don’t do often affects our health. For example, do you smoke tobacco and if so, when did you start and how often? This choice increases your risk for certain diseases, including those of the heart, lungs, esophagus and mouth. If you drink alcohol, the amount and frequency can turn an occasional social enjoyment into a health risk. A discussion would also take place regarding the signs and symptoms of impairment, as well as a confidential dialogue concerning the use or overuse of prescription medications such as those used for pain or sleep, as well as substance abuse.
Here are some tips/conversations/questions your doctor may want to talk to you about when you meet:
- Record everything you eat (even snacks) and drink over a two week period. You would be surprised at the amount of calories in your daily drinks and diet. Then, meet with a registered dietitian to devise a healthier (if needed) and tasty meal plan geared to your budget and taste buds
- Physical activities– what types (walking, swimming, gardening, etc), how often (daily, weekly, occasionally), and for how long (a few minutes, 30 minutes, over an hour, etc)?
- Sleep – how many hours per night and is it restful or interrupted by frequent awakenings? This is important because a lack of sleep (sleep apnea, insomnia, too busy doing other things, others) can lead to health concerns such as depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, fatigue and accidents.
- Sexual history – are you with a single partner, how many partners have you had, do you always practice safe sex, what about your partner and their past sexual history? Have you or your partner had, or been tested for, a sexually transmitted illness? Additionally, your doctor will most likely ask if you have any concerns about your sexual health.
Even though we have general health screening guidelines for different age groups, it is important to know that these would be tailored to your specific medical and family history, current state of health, and anticipated health risks.
That said, here are some general preventive strategies for your health “to do” list. Ask your physician if you need:
- Immunizations – For example, do you need to be protected against Whooping cough, or pertussis? How about Hepatitis B or influenza?
- Aspirin to decrease the risk for heart disease and stroke
- Blood pressure checked at least every two years if normal, more frequently if elevated
- Cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides and LDL screening at least once every five years, more frequently if abnormal and/or if taking cholesterol lowering medications
- Diabetes screening: a fasting blood sugar test at least once every three years, more frequently if abnormal
- Weight, height and body mass index calculation, in addition to a waist circumference measurement
- Digital rectal examination
- Screening tests such as a mammogram, colonoscopy, low-dose Chest CT scan to check for lung cancer, etc.
- Yearly dental check-ups
- A full skin examination to check for signs of skin cancer
Your doctor may also recommend urine and thyroid tests as well as a dilated eye exam and testing for glaucoma.
In this busy world many people only visit their physician when something is wrong and when they “feel” symptoms. However, early disease or potential problems can often be found before they become larger problems with bigger symptoms.
Please make time to schedule an appointment with your physician. The result may lead to more “healthy time” for your future years.