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The Importance of Having an Annual Exam

The Importance of Having an Annual Exam

For many of us, taking care of ourselves means eating healthily, getting enough exercise, trying to get adequate sleep, and going to the doctor when we’re sick. While we may be tempted to skip the doctor’s visit and tough it out through a cold or minor issue, we know going to the doctor is the responsible thing to do when it comes to our health.

But what about those in-between times when you’re feeling well, and don’t have any signs anything is amiss? Should you periodically visit our doctor anyway? Absolutely, says the expert team at Generations Family Practice in Cary, North Carolina. Visiting your provider for an annual exam is just as important, if not moreso, than when you’re sick.

Annual exam explained

To understand the importance of an annual exam, sometimes called an annual physical exam, let’s first review what happens at a typical one. Although your provider customizes your annual exam based on your age and individual needs, numerous common components play out during these wellness visits.

Vital signs check

Your provider begins the annual physical exam by recording some clinical data that measures how well your body’s basic functions are operating, otherwise known as checking your vital signs. Included are measuring your height and weight, taking your temperature, listening to your lungs and heart, recording your resting heart rate, and taking your blood pressure.

Lifestyle discussion

To gain a greater understanding of risks to your health, your provider will ask several questions about lifestyle factors that have health implications, such as whether you drink alcohol, take recreational drugs, or use tobacco products. Another common question is whether you’re experiencing any random symptoms like shortness of breath or chest pain.

Comprehensive physical examination

Next, the annual exam moves onto the physical component of the appointment. Here your provider gains more detail about your overall health by examining your ears, nose, mouth, and eyes as well as your skin. To check for any symptoms of issues developing, your provider gently presses your lymph nodes and your internal organs.

Laboratory testing and screenings

At this point, your provider gleans a fair amount of knowledge about your overall health, but because some serious medical issues like diabetes and high cholesterol often don’t have any outward symptoms, they may order diagnostic testing or preventive screenings like blood work or a urine test.

Your provider may also order additional screenings based on your sex, age, or family medical history such as a Pap test (Pap smear), mammogram, prostate exam, or skin cancer or colon cancer screenings.


At the end of your annual exam, your provider updates any immunizations such as tetanus or a flu shot. If they recommend several immunizations, you can ask for the prioritized list to complete at a follow-up appointment or at your local drugstore.

Focuses on prevention and health maintenance

Annual physical exams are jam-packed with literal touch points that serve as key indicators of your overall health. And as if that weren’t enough, the diagnostic tests, screenings, and immunization components of an annual exam provide an additional layer of protection against future potential health issues. Essentially, an annual exam is an investment in your long-term health.

45-minute commitment to a healthier you

The thought of fitting yet another appointment into your busy schedule may seem a bit daunting initially, but an annual exam will pay dividends to your health in the long run. While it’s impossible to prevent all health issues, keeping regular tabs on changes in your health and buttoning up some unhealthy lifestyle habits may literally save your life.

Did you know that since 1950, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States? Each year, one out of every five deaths are linked to heart disease. As remarkable as that fact is, what's even more astounding is that the vast majority of heart disease cases are preventable.

Why? Because 90% of heart disease cases can be chalked up to risk and lifestyle factors within your control — things like a poor diet, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking.

Sound familiar? These factors are included in your annual exam. So while you’re wrestling with making time for your annual exam, keep in mind that those 45 minutes may be the most important time you spend all day. Your annual exam is an important health strategy to enable you to enjoy all those other responsibilities and moments you’ll spend with friends and family.

To learn more about the benefits of an annual physical exam, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.

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