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Annual physicals may sound routine, but with some thoughtful planning these exams can boost disease prevention and strengthen your relationship with your doctor. It may be helpful to jot down notes or questions before your appointment. NorthShore Internist and Chief Quality and Transformation Officer Lakshmi Halasyamani, MD, the Davis Family Chair, has some suggestions to help maximize the visit:
Q. Are any questions off-limits during an annual physical?A. Not at all. Perhaps there’s a specific pain you’ve been experiencing or something seems a bit “off.” Write down what’s worrying you. Take notes summarizing your symptoms, how long they last, what makes it better or worse. Bring it up at the beginning of the exam so there’s ample time to discuss. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.
Q. What can I do to improve my overall health? A. Making positive changes like eating a healthier diet, quitting smoking, increasing activity, and getting to your ideal weight all have significant health benefits. Ask your doctor if you need support with any lifestyle changes, as they can make helpful referrals.
Q. Should we review my medications and supplements?A. At each visit, bring an updated list of all the medications and supplements (such as vitamins) you take. This helps your doctor gain deeper insight into your health needs, and can prompt a discussion about drug interactions and if any medication changes are needed.
Q. Do I need any vaccinations?A. Adults need shots too! Your annual check-up is a good time to ask about routine immunizations such as flu, tetanus or shingles—to name a few, depending on age or risk factors. Also, let your doctor know if you’re travelling overseas as certain vaccinations are recommended for different destinations.
Q. Are there any cancer screenings I need at my age? A. Most adults should get a colonoscopy every 10 years beginning at age 50. Most women should get mammograms yearly starting at age 40; men 50 and over should be screened for prostate cancer. Ask if there are other screenings you need based on your lifestyle, like smoking or excessive sun exposure. And if you have a family history of certain cancers or other hereditary diseases, the annual exam is a good time to talk about how they might impact you now or in the future.