Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for women to go for an extended amount of time without seeing a doctor. In fact, government health statistics reveal that for women under the age of 44, 23.2% of haven’t seen a physician in more than a year. This figure is concerning because it illustrates the fact that a significant number of women are overdue for their physical examinations.
Naturally, you need to see your doctor when you’re sick, but “well-woman” visits are equally important. To maintain your wellness, it is crucial that you visit your primary care physician (PCP) for your annual physical examination. This yearly evaluation not only presents the opportunity for some important medical checks, but it also gives you the chance to consult with your doctor about any questions or concerns that have arisen since your last visit.
Here are five reasons why your annual well-woman exam should not be missed.
Reproductive/Genitourinary Health Check
Some women receive their gynecologic care from their family physician or internist rather than from their OB-GYN. Regardless of who performs your pelvic exams, Pap smears, and breast checks, you should not neglect these important exams as they are important for all adult women, no matter your age. Whether you are still in your childbearing years or are postmenopausal, these tests can help detect breast and cervical cancer early as well as give your doctor insight into the status of your genitourinary and reproductive system.
Tracking Your Blood Pressure and Weight
Some of the most insightful parts of your annual physical exam are simple and completely non-invasive. For example, a blood pressure check will always be a standard component of your exam. This easy diagnostic is significant because even slightly high blood pressure can damage your health over time. Additionally, high blood pressure, also called hypertension, usually produces no noticeable symptoms. For this reason, hypertension is known as the “silent killer.”
When it comes to tracking your weight, a few pounds fluctuation is likely not cause for concern, but significant weight gain or loss may be a sign of an underlying problem. Your PCP will have records of your previous weights and can detect if there are signs of a potential medical issue that needs further investigation.
Your PCP is not just concerned with your physical health but also with your overall mental health wellbeing. If you are dealing with stress, grief, anxiety, or other issues, by letting your doctor know, he/she can likely help with counseling recommendations or medication, if needed.
Your doctor will probably perform basic laboratory blood tests as part of your annual physical exam. These diagnostics give your PCP invaluable information about the state of your health and alert them to the possible presence of disease. Your blood tests will detect your blood cell types and amounts along with other indications of other levels, such as glucose, triglycerides, HDL and LDL.
An Opportunity for Questions
Don’t underestimate the importance of your annual exam as a chance to have a casual open conversation with your PCP. This yearly visit is the perfect time to ask your doctor any questions and it’s not a bad idea to write your questions down ahead of time so you don’t forget anything. And it’s true, when it comes to your health, there is no such thing as a stupid question.
Maybe you are thinking of becoming pregnant and want an OB-GYN referral. Perhaps you are approaching 50, and it is time to schedule your first colonoscopy. You may have questions about a media article on a recent health discovery that is relevant to you. Whatever your query, you should feel comfortable asking your physician anything about your health and medical care.
Also, take this opportunity to make sure that your PCP is aware of all your latest health information. While your medical team always tries to keep each other abreast of your medical status, you should make certain that your PCP knows all the medications you are taking, their doses, and any diagnoses or procedures you’ve had outside of their care.
If you’re in Connecticut and would like to find a doctor near you to help evaluate which adult vaccinations you may need, you can locate a board-certified PACT primary care physician using our searchable list here.
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