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Health Topic of the Day:What to expect from a Physical Examination! (A must Read Article)

We often plan for special events such as birthdays, anniversaries and vacations. When it comes to your health, do you mark your calendar with your physical exam date? Preventive care is key for keeping good health, even if you feel fine.


Regular physical exams are a good way to take measure of your health. People who have regular physical exams may catch health problems early and may have a better chance at getting better.

Before you visit your doctor:

  • Look over your family health history. Make a list of any new health problems that close family members had since your last visit.
  • Write down a list of concerns or questions. Be sure to note how long you have had symptoms.
  • Be ready to give your health history, symptoms, drugs, vitamins and supplements, and any allergies you have.
  • Bring a list of any drugs you are taking.
  • Bring your health insurance member ID card.

What to Expect

If this is your first visit to this doctor, you may need to fill out medical history forms. Be truthful and don’t leave anything out, even if you think it seems minor. Other common things you can expect include:

  • Filling out forms about privacy and release of information.
  • Having your vital signs taken, such as blood pressure, pulse, temperature, height and weight.
  • A nurse, doctor or other health professional asking questions about your diet, habits, health concerns or family history.

Sometimes, a doctor will advise routine testing. Some tests your doctor may suggest include:

  • Weight and blood pressure: At least every 2 years.
  • Diabetes screen: If you have obesity, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol every 3 years.
  • Cholesterol and HDL: Every 5 years, starting at age 35 (male) or 45 (female). If you smoke, have diabetes, or if heart disease runs in your family, this may start at age 20.
  • Colorectal cancer test: Starting at age 50 or sooner if you have a family history.
  • Flu shot: Every year, starting at age 50. Some experts say you should have flu shots every year after 6 months of age.
  • Tetanus-diphtheria shot: Every 10 years.
  • Pneumonia shot: At age 65, or earlier if you have certain health problems such as diabetes, heart or lung disease.
  • Pap smear: For women, every one to three years, beginning at age 21 or within 3 years of first sexual intercourse.
  • Breast exam: For women, every year, starting at age 40.
  • Mammogram: For women, every one to two years starting at age 40, or more often if breast cancer runs in the family.
  • Bone density test: At age 65, or earlier if you weigh 154 pounds or less, to check for osteoporosis.
  • Prostate cancer test: For men, age 50 or older (40 for African-Americans).

To be sure you get the most out of your visit or screening appointments:

  • Write down your doctor’s advice.
  • Ask questions about your condition, any tests or drugs your doctor suggests or anything else that may be confusing to you.
  • If your doctor writes you a prescription, be sure that you know what the medicine is for, how to take it, and how long you should stay on it.
  • Keep a record of your vital signs.
  • If your doctor suggests tests or treatments, find out if pre-approval is needed. Call the customer service number on the back of your member ID card.

Sources: US. Department of Health and Human Services  , Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality  , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)