Get a Check-Up – Why your Annual Physical is So Important

bigstockphoto_medical_exam_2778548Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina supports preventive care maintenance, including routine physical examinations, but why is that such a big deal?  Have you ever asked yourself why an annual physical exam is so important?  Does it really matter if you visit your primary care physician once a year?  Physician Assistant Heidi Doyle, PA-C with North Hills Internal Medicine, a Duke Primary Care clinic thinks it is.  According to Doyle, “Regular check-ups are important to maintain a relationship with your doctor and to receive individualized counseling based on your family health history and your lifestyle.”

How often you need a check-up can vary and is based on age and other risk factors.  The general rule of thumb is that if you are under 30 and healthy, don’t smoke, aren’t overweight, have no disease risk factors and don’t take prescription medications, a check-up every two years may suffice.  If you are female and sexually active, however, doctors recommend an annual Pap smear screen for cervical cancer starting at age 21.  If you are age 30-40 and healthy, you may still be able to visit your doctor every other year, provided you have no specific health risks.  However, for women 40 and over, a mammogram is recommended for baseline and should be repeated every 1 to 2 years.  Once you hit age 50, an annual physical is highly recommended.  Both men and women at that age should get a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer.

Keep in mind that any risk factor, including smoking or being overweight, escalates the importance of an annual physical, no matter how old you are.  According to Doyle, “A person with diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or one who is simply more susceptible to those conditions, can make lifestyle changes that are much more impactful that any pill….”  Knowing the condition of your own body is imperative in making those changes and practicing preventive care maintenance.

Every human being is different, with a different family history and health concerns.  Because of that fact, there is no pat answer for every person.  Still, a regular check-up is important for the following reasons:

1.  Even healthy people get sick:  Despite the fact that you may be in great physical condition, you could have underlying health issues that need routine care.  You can’t know your cholesterol level until you have it checked and knowing you have a problem gives you the opportunity to make lifestyle changes that could reduce your risk for things like heart attack and stroke.  Cancer screenings, mammograms and colonoscopy tests also become increasingly important as we age.  Hormone levels and thyroid function also need to be evaluated.  There is truth in the old adage, “Knowledge is Power,” and when it comes to your health you want all the knowledge you can get.  Even if you feel great, it’s important for your peace of mind to make sure there are no health issues lurking beneath the surface.

2.  You smoke, drink or don’t exercise:  If you happen to have an unhealthy habit, it becomes increasingly important for you to visit your primary care physician.  Let’s face it, very few of us are never guilty of an unhealthy choice, but we can still be wise about our health.  Being in the best possible physical condition according to your lifestyle is important and seeing your doctor annually can be a big part of preventive care maintenance.

3.  Everyone in your family died young or contracted a specific disease:   The main thing to keep in mind is that family history plays a big role in your personal health.  The key is to be proactive.  If a number of your immediate family members died of heart attacks, stroke, cancer or any other illness, make sure you let your doctor know.  Being honest about family history and other habits can maximize your physician’s ability to make sure you have the information and tools you need to stay healthy.  Having a doctor you trust and maintaining that relationship through regular check-ups may become important down the road if you are a higher risk for certain illnesses.

4.  Your health is your greatest asset:  It may seem like an annual physical exam is nothing more than a nuisance, but it should be a top priority.  If you are willing to spend time, money and energy on car maintenance or cat food, you should be willing to take a little time for yourself.  Without preventive care maintenance, everything would fall apart – our cars, our homes, and our bodies.  Whether you are a man, woman or child, a regular check-up is an important part of doing what you can to take care of yourself.

There is always an excuse why we can’t visit the doctor’s office for a physical.  A busy schedule, unusual work hours, fear of needles or budget issues are among the most common.  Many Americans, however, are routinely paying for health insurance, but never use it.  If you have access to quality medical care, take advantage of it.  Your Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC health plan, includes 100% coverage for preventive care.  If you are still uninsured, look into the possibility of obtaining health coverage.  With the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you may likely qualify for a federal subsidy to help aid in paying your monthly premium.  The bottom line is do what it takes to take care of your health.  After all, your health is your greatest asset!

For more information on Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina health insurance coverage, the Marketplace and healthcare gov  to apply for your subsidy, please visit our website at or call our toll free number 888-765-5400 and speak with one of our experienced and professional agents.  Let us help you navigate through the Health Care Reform changes in accordance with the new regulations of The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama care.



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