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Published on June 23, 2020

Do I Need an Annual Physical?

Rod Acosta, MD, Chief Physician Executive, President and CEO of Stamford Health Medical Group

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Everyone needs an annual physical to take advantage of the days they're feeling well.  

Many of us may also be wondering if it's safe to see your doctor right now as we continue our fight against COVID-19. Please, don't put off routine care because your health is too important.

Most of us don't hesitate to call the doctor when we're sick. But it can be hard to remember details that will help you later if you're not feeling well. So use this list as a guide for how to make the most out of your annual physicals with your primary care doctor:

1. What medications are you taking? Make a list of all of them and the physicians who prescribed them to you and why.

2. Don’t forget your over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins. Include the dosage (usually in milligrams) and frequency (how many times per day).

3. Make note of any new allergies or sensitivities to foods, environmental factors (bees, dust mites, etc.), products and materials. Your reaction, such as itchiness or hives, is important.

4. Have you had any recent surgeries or hospitalizations? Add those to the list, too.

5. What about your family? Has anyone such as your mother, father or siblings developed diabetes, heart disease or any type of cancer? Write it down.

6. Clean out your medicine cabinet and dispose of any expired prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. See the FDA’s guidelines on properly disposing of prescription drugs.

7. Make a list of the preventive care and routine follow-up appointments for the year ahead. These include physicals and any required lab work, cholesterol test and blood pressure measurement, dental cleanings, eye exams, colonoscopy—and for women—gynecologic exams, PAP smears, breast exams, and mammograms.

8. Get your flu shot! Even though the reports say its effectiveness is not 100%, having the shot can protect you, your family and others who might not be able to overcome the flu, such as babies and the elderly.

Think of the above as your year-round resolutions to make both routine and “sick” visits easier on yourself. Make a point to do this exercise once a year—you’ll be happy you did.

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