Thinking About Skipping Your Annual Checkup? Don’t!

Mar 22, 2019

You take your car in for its regular oil change. You never miss an appointment at the hair salon. You even take your four-legged bestie to the vet for annual vaccines. But if you’re like a lot of Americans, it may have been a while since you had an annual checkup. Why do so many of us avoid making time to care for ourselves? Haley Newton, D.O., a family medicine physician at USMD Las Colinas, says having an annual checkup is one of the best things you can do for your health. Here’s why.

Establish a relationship with a primary care physician.
“It’s important to have a primary care physician, even if you only see your doctor once a year,” Dr. Newton says. “It’s always better to have a doctor and not need one, than need a doctor and not have one. Sickness never comes along at a convenient time. Annual checkups help you establish a relationship with a primary care physician. They are a good time to sit down with your doctor and go over everything—make sure you’re up to date on all your health maintenance care such as pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies and prostate cancer screenings.”

Stay up-to-date on vaccines.
Most adults think they only need an annual flu shot, but Dr. Newton says that’s not always the case.

“After the age of 16 or 18, most individuals don’t realize they still need additional vaccines,” she says. “But tetanus shots are only good for 10 years. A lot of people have a tetanus shot when they’re 12, then see me when their 30 not realizing their tetanus shot has expired.”

There are other vaccines that should be on your radar, too. A pneumonia vaccine is recommended for people with chronic medical problem, and people 60 and older should consider having a shingles vaccine. Talk with your doctor to see which vaccines are right for you.

Catch potential problems early.
Annual checkups provide an opportunity for an overall pulse check. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help you stay healthy,” Dr. Newton says. “It’s also a good time to talk about whether any labs are needed for screening purposes. Everything depends on the patient. What’s right for one individual may not be right for another, but I always recommend screening for diabetes, and depending on your age, screening for cholesterol—even if it’s just to get a baseline. I catch a lot people with diabetes, pre-diabetes and cholesterol issues. Labs can help us catch these conditions early and take steps to prevent them from developing into something more serious.”

Other lab tests may be ordered to evaluate kidney and liver function. “We may want to check your electrolyte levels, make sure your staying well hydrated, and your liver and kidneys are working well,” Dr. Newton adds.

Don’t be afraid to talk about health concerns.
Use your annual checkup as a time to talk openly with your doctor about any health concerns you may have or symptoms you may be experiencing.

“Sometimes patients think they just have to live with something as part of their normal daily life and that’s not always the case. It may be something I can help them with,” Dr. Newton explains. “If you’re experiencing pain or a chronic symptom, tell your doctor about it. We’re here to do everything we can to help you.”

Have you had any recent falls? Do you want to quit smoking or drinking alcohol? Are you trying to lose weight? These are all things your primary doctor can help you with.

“We’ll share the things that we’ve found successful. We’re meant to be a resource,” Dr. Newton says. “For example, if you’re a little bit heavier than your exam a year ago, it’s a good time to take a look at what’s changed in your life. We’ll talk about your lifestyle, work schedule and sleep schedule so we can figure out what’s going on in your life that’s contributing to your weight gain. It could be sleep apnea, depression, or poor diet choices, but we’ll sit down and talk so we can find a solution.”

An annual checkup is usually covered by your insurance.
No situation was ever improved by procrastination—this is especially true when it comes to your health. “Thirty-five and 40-year-old men often come in and tell me they haven’t seen a doctor in a decade,” Dr. Newton says. “It’s a shame, because most plans cover annual physical exams at 100 percent. And sometimes individuals even receive a discount on their health insurance premium when they have an annual physical exam. So take advantage of your insurance benefit.”

Ready to schedule your annual exam? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Newton, call 972. 556.1616.