Don’t wait to get a physical |

Don’t wait to get a physical

Dr. Drew Werner
Vail CO, Colorado

What good are doctors? That in itself is a very interesting question. If I put out a poll, I would guess the number one answer would be to prescribe medication. There are fewer things that make patients happier than when a doctor prescribes something to make them better, or make them feel better. However, I would argue that in the history of medicine there have been three things that have had a more significant impact on more lives than anything else … Germ theory and the idea of hand washing, immunizations and disease prevention. With that in mind, be thankful for your doctor who helped you lose weight or quit smoking, get your flu or tetanus shot, or just advised you to do a better job washing your hands. While you might not even notice their simple suggestion, the impact they had on your life was likely much greater than a lifetime of antibiotics or other medications.

Dear Doc,

My boyfriend and I need to come in for physicals, which are probably long overdue. What should we ask for when we come in?

” Catching up in Eagle Vail

Dear Catching Up,

That too is a great question! Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. Your physical should look at your complete health, screen for health risks, and include or recommend testing and immunizations specifically for you. As adults, several questions should be considered by yourself and your doctor. These include:

– Do I need to make lifestyle changes that will improve my future health?

– What blood tests do I need to screen for problems I might not know I have?

– What immunizations do I need to stay healthy, disease free or reduce my risk of spreading illness to others?

– What tests do I need to screen for the early detection of cancer?

– Are there other risks I have of medical problems I can reduce?

– Considering my home, work and social environments, is my overall health as good I believe it to be?

The answers to those questions depend on several things as well, which can be evaluated at the time of your visit with your doctor. You should expect:

– A detailed family history to assess genetic and inherited risk factors

– A physical exam including measurement of blood pressure, a calculation of your BMI (Body Mass Index), as well as a thorough examination of all your body systems.

– Time to answer questions and discuss recommendations and findings.

Factors that influence that discussion, as well as details which you can be ready to review with your physician are:

– Your past medical problems or conditions.

– Medications, vitamins, supplements and other things you might take (think caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs).

– Your current emotional, mental and spiritual health.

– Your biological family’s health through your grandparents.

– Your work or school environment and success in it.

– Your health habits including sleep, exercise and diet.

– How you manage stress.

Needless to say, a simple physical is not simple! Some specific tests and screening should be done yearly like pap smears and mammograms, while other tests such as colonoscopy are performed every 10 years after age 50. Immunization recommendations continue to change. If a problem or risk is found, more frequent follow up is often recommended. In the long run, however, your body is like anything else: The better you take care of it, the better it will take care of you. As we approach 2008, it is a great time to make that investment in you.

Let me know what’s on your mind at

Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered, don’t wait, call your doctor.

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