I am often asked "how often should I have a physical and what should it include?" In response to this question the following things should be considered realizing that this is not a comprehensive list and each item should be discussed with your doctor.
First, it is recommended that you have a physical exam at least yearly. A physical exam or "physical" is an opportunity for your physician to review all of you body systems and identify your risk for major diseases and more significantly identify ways to prevent these diseases.
A "physical" should routinely include a head to toe exam including vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respirations, and temperature) and a vision screening. This should include an examination of your eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, heart, lungs, abdomen, genitourinary systems and extremities. If you are over the age of 30, this should routinely include an EKG (Electrocardiogram). This exam should also include basic blood work including a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, thyroid stimulating hormone level, urinalysis and fasting lipid (cholestero) panel.
If you are a smoker or have any history of lung diseases including asthma, emphesema or chronic bronchitis, you should have a yearly chest x-ray.
Men between the ages of 40 and 70 years old should have a prostate exam yearly and this should include a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test to screen for prostate cancer.
Women who are sexually active or over the age of 18 should have a yearly pap smear to screen for human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
Men and women over the age of 50 should have a screening colonoscopy every 10 years to check for colon cancer.
Women over age 40 should have yearly mammograms, and women who are menopausal or who have had a hysterectomy should have a bone densometry test every 2 years.
During your physical exam the following vaccinations can be considered:
Influenza - yearly for the very young and for those over the age of 65 or with any lung disease
Pneumonia - every 5 years.
Hepatitis B - anyone with freqent exposure to the public or any healthcare worker
Hepatitis A - anyone with freqent exposure to the public, healthcare or daycare worker.
The following vaccines are very helpful but you should talk to your doctor about risks and benefits of their use:
Guardasil - Vaccine for prevention of Human Papilloma Virus
Zostavax - Vaccine for prevention of Herpes Zoster (Shingles).
It is recommended that most people without significant complicating illness eat a diet low in fat and exercise for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week to maintain their level of health.
For specific information on medical problems or symptoms, please see your doctor.