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March 25, 2022 | General Wellness

What is an Annual Physical and Why Is it Important?

A calendar next to a stethoscope

Annual physical. Wellness check. Regular checkup.

Whatever you call it, you’re referring to a yearly check-in with your primary healthcare provider to ensure you’re healthy. Even though this is an important appointment to keep each year, 29% of patients surveyed skipped care due to the COVID-19 pandemic1.

From temporary office closures to fear of COVID-19 exposure, patients have been putting off annual physicals in favor of staying home. However, these missed appointments may have long-term consequences due to everything that is covered in a wellness check.

Curious why an annual physical is so important?

What happens at a physical?

The good news is a physical is pretty straightforward. Your primary healthcare provider will ask a variety of health-related questions and check some basic stats2.

  • Questions about medical history. Your healthcare provider will likely ask if you’ve been experiencing any pain or problems, what your lifestyle looks like (including smoking and alcohol consumption), how frequently you exercise, and your diet. If it’s an appointment with a new primary healthcare provider, they may have more in-depth questions about any surgeries you’ve had, chronic health concerns and more.
  • Questions about family history. Sometimes genetics can play a major role in health. Your healthcare provider will want to know about any type of cancer, chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, and other health issues within your family, as that information could be valuable with your personal health down the road.
  • The exam. Your healthcare provider will typically examine at eyes, ears, nose, and throat to see how things are looking. They will listen to your breathing, have you lie down and push on your stomach, and possibly check reflexes as well.

An annual wellness check is expected to last around 30 minutes. There is usually a lab work component that accompanies a physical as well, and the potential for other lab tests to be ordered by your healthcare provider.

Common blood tests ordered for an annual physical

A blood draw is a very common part of an annual physical. Each healthcare provider is different: some may want you to complete blood work ahead of your appointment, while others will order it after your check-up. Because a wellness check looks at your overall health, there are common tests performed on your blood such as:

Why an annual physical is important

In general, it’s recommended to do an annual physical as preventative healthcare. Checking in with your healthcare provider and completing lab work each year gives you the opportunity to stay ahead of any potential issues.

With the number of people skipping appointments during the pandemic, researchers are concerned about the consequences for years to come. According to the Wall Street Journal, several studies reveal that there could be delays in cancer diagnosis due to the recent missed checkups, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other preventative tests3.

Other types of preventative checkups

While an annual physical with your primary healthcare provider serves as preventative care for your overall health, as we age, there are other preventative care appointments it’s recommended you schedule. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion provides the following recommendations for adults4:

  • A Pap test every three to five years for women aged 21 to 65 for cervical cancer prevention
  • A mammogram every two years beginning at age 50 can detect early signs of breast cancer in women
  • Colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 45 can protect both men and women from colorectal cancer

How to prepare for your annual physical

When getting ready for your appointment, it’s helpful to spend some time preparing. It’s easy to forget about everything that has been happening with your health, so be sure to spend some time thinking over any concerns you have or questions you want to ask ahead of time. You can also prepare to talk to your healthcare provider about how frequently you should be meeting based on your health. Your healthcare provider will provide input on how often you should be seeing them5. If your healthcare provider requested that you complete your bloodwork before your appointment, prepare ahead of time so your healthcare provider will have your test results to review with you during the appointment.

If you can’t imagine fitting in one more thing before your physical, let Scarlet® meet you where you are for your annual bloodwork.



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