85% of Americans take their pets in for their shots on schedule, but fewer than half get a regular annual wellness visit.
This is true even though most insurance companies cover the cost of an annual physical exam.
Annual wellness exams establish baselines
Your annual checkup will include a range of tests. Your temperature, weight, blood pressure, hearing, balance, and other tests may be included. Wellness exams often include a simple blood draw to test for warning signs of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Depending on your age and health history, you may need a colon health screening, mammogram, adult vaccinations, or screenings for mental health and development.
Your doctor may ask you about your eating habits, sleeping patterns, use of cigarettes and alcohol, and other lifestyle questions.
There’s an old saying that we only improve what we measure. This is often true for health concerns. If you’re not aware that pounds are creeping on or that you’re drinking more than you used to, you may not make healthy changes in your habits. Having an annual health exam ensures that you get all the screenings you need to stay healthy.
Seeing positive or negative changes over time can help you make good decisions about your health. Your doctor can alert you to concerns before they become a problem for you.
Set health goals
Working together with your primary care physician, you can set health goals for your next checkup. Popular health goals include
- Exercise — but how much exercise, what kind, and for what purpose?
- Eat better — but will you focus on whole grains, healthier fats, or a shift to more plant foods?
- Get more sleep — but do you need longer hours of sleep or better quality? Do you have sleep problems?
- Take care of your mental health – how do you handle stress and anxiety in your daily life?
With goals like these, or other health plans, your doctor can help you choose realistic goals and health strategies to reach those goals. You’ll also have accountability and resources.
Develop a relationship
Your doctor of internal medicine learns more about you and your needs from a wellness checkup. Get to know the doctor and make sure it is someone you feel comfortable talking to. He or she can direct you to resources that will be helpful. When you do have a health issue, you will have an established relationship with someone you know and feel comfortable sharing personal issues, and trust to help you. And, knowing you, they’ll be better able to answer your questions and advise you in the future.
It’s worth keeping your health information up to date and becoming better informed about your health. Invest the time in taking care of you!
At the very least, take care of yourself as well as you take care of your dog. Don’t skip your annual wellness visit.