10 Jun SIX THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR NEXT ROUTINE PREVENTIVE PHYSICAL EXAM BY STEVEN OVERN, M.D.
Many insurance companies are now paying for employees to have a yearly preventive physical exam. However, before you head into your providers office for this exam there are some things you will need to know before hand to make this exam as useful as possible. Below are 6 questions you should be prepared to answer before your preventive exam.
- HOW OLD ARE YOU? Don’t worry the questions get harder. Many health issues are found commonly in some age groups and very uncommonly in other age groups. Therefore, what is screened for depends upon your age. For example, an abdominal aortic aneurysm (a dilation of the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the legs) is not usually seen until a person is over the age of 65. A young person should not be screened for this condition, but it would make sense to screen someone over 65 years old. So remember, what tests are ordered has a lot to do simply with how old you are.
- HOW DO YOU FEEL? No, how do you feel? Imagine you went for a preventive exam and you were not screened for one of the top 10 causes of death in almost all age groups. You would be livid, and rightly so. Did you know that suicide appears on the list of the top 10 most common causes of death in almost every age category? Your provider should screen for depression with some simple questions to determine if you are at risk. Don’t be offended, they are looking for a common killer. Expect it.
- WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
Okay, that’s another easy question. Did you know in 2016 the leading cause of death between the ages 1-45 years old was unintended injury and accidents. Do you wear seat belts? Do you work with dangerous equipment? Do you drink more than 2 oz. of alcohol a day? Do you do recreational drugs? Do you practice safe sex? How you answer these questions has more to do with the likelihood that you will survive to the age of 50 years old than finding out your cholesterol value. Don’t overlook them.
- WHAT DISEASES ARE IN YOUR FAMILY? Some conditions run in families, but many more do not. Knowing illnesses in other family members may be very important for some conditions. In particular you should find out the medical history of your mother, father, brothers and sisters. It would be important to know who had a certain condition and at what age they developed the condition. For example, when to start screening for colon cancer can depend a great deal on whether anyone in your family has had colon cancer and how old they were when they first discovered it.
- DO YOU HAVE YOUR IMMUNIZATION HISTORY? Let’s be honest, after high school no one does. However, keeping up with immunizations as you travel through life takes some book keeping and attention. Not only do people need different immunizations at different ages in life, there are also immunizations that are recommended once you are diagnosed with certain conditions. This is an important and often overlooked aspect of preventive care.
- WHAT ARE YOUR MAJOR RISK FACTORS FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE? This is what everyone thinks about when they think of prevention. Cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes) become much more common after the age of 50. Everyone after age 50 should know their major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These are your height and weight (to calculate your Body Mass Index which is used to determine if you are obese), cholesterol level, blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking history and your general fitness level. All of these can be modified with a plan developed with your care provider. This exam is the time to discuss these in detail.