(1) BECOME ESTABLISHED AT A PRACTICE
It is important that a practice gets to know you as a patient. Even if you are “healthy” it is important that your provider get to know your personal and family history. This way, if you ever become ill, you can get an appointment and potential treatment faster.
(2) BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK
According to the CDC, 33.2% of patients aged 20 and over suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Some symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, dizziness, vision changes, chest pain and/or palpitations. High blood pressure increases a patient’s risk for heart attack and stroke but can be easily improved with lifestyle modifications and/or medications.
During your annual exam, your provider will preform a health risk assessment. This includes measuring weight, height, and blood pressure. Some patients are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which can cause further problems if untreated. Some of these risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, being male, or being African American. Your provider will discuss any risk factors that you may have and educate you on any prevention strategies.
(3) ANNUAL LABS
During your annual visit, your provider may order screening labs to help identify the presence of disease. The specific labs ordered may depend on your personal or family history, risk factors or age. Some patients may have chronic disease and not be aware of the symptoms. Screening labs can help to identify diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, blood disorders and more. Many times, catching the disease early on can make a great difference in the treatment or patient outcomes.
(4) WELL WOMEN EXAM
Cervical cancer impacts many American woman every year and has the potential to be lethal. However, with early detection it is easily treated. According to the CDC, the incidence of cervical cancer begins at age 20, peaks from age 40-45 and continues throughout life. Therefore, all women over the age of 21 should have routine pap screening exams.
Breast Cancer can also be treated more easily if caught early. During your annual well women exam, your provider will preform a breast exam to assess for the presence of any lumps or infection. You will also be educated on how to perform self-breast exams at home, so that you can monitor for changes at home.
*Low income patients or patients without insurance may be able to get a free or low-cost screening through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Find out if you qualify: CLICK HERE
(5) MEDICATION RECONCILIATION
All patients should understand why they are taking their medications and how to properly take them. Taking medications improperly can lead to medication errors, that can be harmful. Medications can also interact with each other and lead to other harmful side effects. During your annual visit, your provider will assess your medications to make sure that you still need them and that they do not cause any harmful interactions.
To make this process easier, bring your medication bottles with you. This includes prescription medication and any over-the-counter medications or supplements. The medical assistant can transcribe from the bottles to create an accurate medication list.
(6) SKIN CHECK
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. As Arizonans, we are at increased risk for skin cancer. During your annual check-up, your provider will do a general skin assessment. If you have areas of concern, mention them to your provider. Any skin changes that warrant evaluated will be addressed. Some patients will be referred to a dermatologist for further evaluation.
Why is this important? Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that is the most lethal. However, if detected early, many patients can recover. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “the five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99%. If the disease is caught later and has spread to other organs of the body, this survival rate drops to 25%.”
Do not wait for skin cancer to spread before you have your skin checked. Schedule your annual check up to be proactive at detecting the disease.
(7) HEALTH PROMOTION & DISEASE PREVENTION
During your annual visit, your provider will assess your personal and family history to determine if you are at risk for certain chronic disease. If so, they may order early detection screenings to help keep an eye out for the disease. Depending on your age, your provider may also order age-related routine screenings. These screenings include detection of breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, osteoporosis, abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. It is important that all patients receive these age-related screenings to detect any abnormalities as early as possible so that early intervention can be initiated to reduce the impact on the patient’s future quality of life.