They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but yearly checkups are much more important for long-term health. Frequent visits to a health care professional can help catch signs of serious illnesses before they progress too far or become untreatable. There are several other benefits of annual checkups as well.
Most people know the basics of a healthy lifestyle – eating healthfully, exercising, and getting adequate sleep. A yearly checkup lets your doctor know you are doing these things and lets him or her suggest changes based on your individual health. If you have an iron deficiency, your doctor may prescribe more protein. As you age, he or she may advise a transition from high-impact aerobics to low-impact workouts like yoga.
Disease Risk Review
Everyone is at risk for different diseases at certain times. An annual checkup lets the doctor reassess risk for you and your family members, whether they are small children or elderly parents and grandparents. Some conditions require annual screenings, particularly those that run in families such as heart disease and diabetes. Other yearly screenings such as pelvic or prostate exams prevent certain types of infections and cancers.
Help for Chronic Conditions
Millions of Americans live with chronic illnesses or lifelong disabilities. Some are congenital, while some develop over time. Yearly checkups keep your doctor up to date on comorbid conditions, how you are managing the original condition, and what help you might need. For example, as a person with cerebral palsy ages, he or she might experience increased joint and muscle pain. Medications and therapeutic exercises can help.
Opportunity for Questions
An annual checkup is a great time to ask your doctor questions. Have you noticed you can’t drink milk without a stomachache? You may have developed lactose intolerance, or you might be allergic to a certain type of milk. Did you just find out a genetic disorder runs in your family? Ask your doctor about the implications and whether family members should be tested. Don’t worry about asking silly questions or taking your doctor’s time; your doctor wants and needs to hear from you.