Dr. Shida Saam is a leading primary care physician serving the whole family.
It’s generally recommended that you schedule a visit with your primary care physician at least once a year. The reality is that many people don’t take this recommendation to heart, often preferring to see their doctor when aches and pains or ailments demand attention.
1. Testing Appropriate for Your Age or Medical History
As you go through life, you’ll reach points where you’re statistically at an increased risk for certain conditions. For instance, osteoporosis screenings are recommended for women over the age of 65 or those with a high fracture risk. Physicians will also develop, maintain, and update your medical history with each visit, which can help determine what other preventative screenings may be right for you. This includes making recommendations for when patients within a certain age range should start considering mammograms or colonoscopies. Other times, there are tests that may be recommended because of your medical history. If heart disease runs in your family, for example, you may be encouraged to have blood tests, EKGs, and chest X-rays on a regular basis to detect irregularities in your heart’s structure and rhythm.
2. Tracking and Monitoring Weight and Other Important Stats
Changes in weight, whether it’s up or down, are sometimes so gradual that it’s not noticeable. In some cases, certain medications and age-related changes in metabolism can affect weight. It’s during regular physical exams that your doctor can identify any changes in your weight and other important stats such as your blood pressure that may need to be evaluated further. Your physician can also let you know if there are specific goals you should be focused on based on any patterns seen from one visit to the next (e.g., losing 15-20 pounds to bring down your blood sugar numbers).
3. Identifying and Addressing Mental Health Issues
Stress and anxiety can have a significant impact on your overall health. If you have any new sources of stress and anxiety that may be causing you to lose sleep or change your eating habits, your primary care physician can direct you to appropriate resources. Physicians can also spot early signs of memory issues that could suggest dementia or Alzheimer’s in older patients. The early treatment of mental health issues can reduce your risk of experiencing physical health problems. Chronic back pain, for example, can become worse if you are constantly stressed and anxious.
4. Paying Attention to the ‘Small Things’ You May Not Think Are Important
If you’re like most people, you probably experience daily aches and pains you don’t think warrant a doctor’s visit. However, it’s “small things” like a knee that clicks when you walk up stairs or occasional neck pain that’s starting to become more persistent throughout your day that may be an early sign of a problem that might become worse over time if ignored. With regular visits to your PCP, you’ll have an opportunity to mention anything out of the ordinary you’ve noticed. For some aches and pains you may be experiencing, your primary care physician may suggest simple solutions, such as making an effort to improve your posture to ease back and neck pain, that may provide much-appreciated relief.
A primary care physician doesn’t expect you to have a major medical issue that demands attention every time you come in for a regular visit. In fact, prevention is the main reason why annual physical exams are recommended. During a typical examination, a PCP will determine if there have been any changes in your health since your last visit that may warrant specific tests or certain courses of action. If you’ve had a blood test since your last exam, your PCP will discuss those results and possibly suggest appropriate adjustments to your medication. For patients with existing health issues, regular physical exams can help minimize the risk of developing common complications.
A primary care physician does more than administer shots, check your vital signs, and write prescriptions. PCPs can also be a valuable source of information about your dietary, exercise, and lifestyle habits. This is especially important if you have a condition such as diabetes that needs to be properly managed or if you have a family history of potentially serious health issues. It’s never too late to start making regular visits to a primary care physician like a habit.