Do you know how often to go for a physical? When you were a kid, you probably went once a year, but some doctors tell patients that every other year is okay. Is this the best advice? How often should you get a physical

There’s No Tried-and-True Answer

The American Medical Association (AMA) recommended every five years in the past, but that’s not always the best plan to follow. Athletes may need an annual sports physical before they can play on a sports team or participate in sports. Annual work-related physicals are important for certain jobs like firefighting, working as a police officer, serving in the military, or being a paramedic. Truck drivers need DOT health exams to maintain their CDL.

A person who has chronic health conditions like diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. needs to see their doctor more often than someone who is at their optimal weight and has no health issues. How often you get a physical is a question you should ask your doctor. 

Your habits also impact how often you should see a doctor. If you get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, make healthy decisions when it comes to your diet, and stay hydrated, it counts for a lot.

Do you drink coffee? Coffee in moderation has proven to be beneficial to your nervous system as coffee contains magnesium, which helps with blood sugar. Of course, that’s as long as you avoid adding sugar and cream. 

Ideally, you need to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Try reading before you go to sleep. You’ll have a harder time getting to sleep and staying asleep if you’re going to sleep with a phone or tablet that’s streaming videos. 

If you wake up frequently because you’re too hot and sweaty, sleeping in a much colder bedroom makes a difference. Run a fan or crack a window. Turn up the AC in your bedroom if needed. Remove unnecessary blankets and wear lighter pajamas to stay cooler when you sleep.

Get your flu shot. You may have been lucky and avoided the flu or never found it that hard to recover from it. The flu increases inflammation in your body, and it can lead to pneumonia or sepsis. Those two conditions can become very serious in little time. Sepsis is a common complication of the flu. The CDC reports around 1.7 million adults end up with sepsis each year. Even if the flu shot doesn’t keep you from getting the flu, it can help your body fight the infection.

What to Expect During an Annual Physical Exam

It’s time for your annual physical exam. Depending on how long it’s been since your last physical, a lot might happen, but there’s no established plan. It comes down to what you’re concerned about, anything your doctor notices, and your habits.

Typically, an annual physical starts with a nurse or doctor taking your blood pressure, pulse, height, and weight. If a nurse completes these tests, the doctor will come in and talk to you about your habits, your mental health, and any concerns you have. 

Now is the time to be honest if you find a doctor’s appointment stressful. Some exams can be put off until you develop more of a rapport with a doctor or use an alternative option. For example, people dread colonoscopies and may prefer the fecal blood test instead. Be honest so that your doctor can work with you on the best path forward.

Once you’ve had this discussion, some or all of these tests and exams may take place. 

  • Pulse in your legs
  • Skin exams to look for precancerous or cancerous lesions or moles
  • Nail exams to look for signs of ingrown nails, fungal issues, etc.
  • Tests of your reflexes, muscle strength, and balance

Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs. The doctor is listening for crackles, congestion, murmurs, or other signs of lung and heart disease.

An abdominal exam checks the size of your liver to look for problems. It also helps your doctor feel for any cysts or growths under the skin that are abnormal. Bowel sounds may be listened to using a stethoscope.

Your doctor will feel your neck for enlarged glands, which can be signs of infection or cancer. A check of your mouth and throat is also performed. You may be asked how often you see a dentist. 

Some tests depend on your gender. Differing genetic builds require different checks for common health issues that affect men or women.

Women typically will have their doctor feel for ovaries through the abdomen. A pap smear helps detect cervical cancer. A breast exam feels for lumps, and a referral for a mammogram may be given before you leave. Women who smoke may want to have a lung x-ray to check for signs of lung cancer.

Men will have a hernia exam, testicular exam, and prostate exam. Sometimes, a blood test is used to check for prostate cancer instead of the more invasive rectal exam. For men who smoke, a test to check the lungs and abdominal aortic aneurysm may also be ordered. If you’re 45 or older and haven’t yet gone for a colonoscopy or had a colon cancer screening, that’s going to be recommended, too.

Blood tests to check your cholesterol, complete blood count, and the presence of STIs might be recommended, too. The CDC recommends that all adults get tested for hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime. At the end of a physical, your doctor may recommend you get any missing vaccinations caught up. 

Recommendations for the Hep B vaccine series changed recently, and it’s recommended for adults under the age of 60 now. Shingles is an important series to get if you had chicken pox in the past and are 50 or older. Flu, COVID, pneumococcal, and TDP shots or boosters are also possibilities.

What If You Don’t Have a Doctor or Have Anxiety?

We do understand that some people don’t have a doctor. If you’ve moved to a new town or city, you may not have found a doctor yet. Shame, worries about the cost, and anxiety also keep people from seeing a doctor regularly.

Premium Urgent Care in Fresno understands. If the thoughts of a full physical are too stressful, start small with an appointment to get your vaccinations caught up. Come back another time for blood tests. What’s most important is that you start taking steps to take care of yourself.

Our Fresno office offers work-related physicals, DOT physicals, sports physicals, and annual check-ups. Our medical team helps you get caught up on vaccinations and blood tests. We also offer eye and ear exams.

You can see our doctors without an appointment, but we recommend checking in online to save time. You can also complete the forms online and reduce the amount of paperwork that’s required when you arrive at Premium Urgent Care Fresno. It saves time and frustration when you’re already stressed about having to see a doctor or on a tight schedule.