OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Michael Smith, MD, FAAP

Getting the most out of
your annual physical.

Michael Smith, MD, FAAP, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics
Southside Medical Clinic, Eau Claire

For many physicians in Internal Medicine (Doctors for Adults) and Pediatrics (Doctors for Children) a regular part of their practice is performing the annual physical. The regular physical has different purposes at different ages. Each of us should take advantage of what the physical has to offer at those different ages.

Pediatric physicals

No two children are identical. During a child’s annual physical, general questions regarding your child’s growth, development and health can be answered and your concerns can be addressed. Your physician will also ask questions to help determine that all is going well for your child. Immunization schedules will be reviewed and you will be updated on any changes that have been made to the vaccination schedule, based on current recommendations.

Reasons for Physicals for children:

  • Allow an assessment of growth and development
  • Provide time for answering specific questions about your child
  • Provides time for the physician to update you on any new health recommendations
  • Allows the physician to identify any “silent” illness

Adolescent physicals

Adolescents are usually scheduled every two years. The tetanus booster may be given and any special vaccine recommendations can be made. Adolescence can be an awkward time for kids and parents. This visit can be used to discuss some of the pertinent issues for this age group including peer pressure, sexuality concerns and academics.

Adult physicals

As an adult, the physical is a means of evaluating one’s risk for health issues that may develop later in our lives. These include different types of cancer, heart disease or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), silent diseases such as hypertension and cholesterol disorders, smoking cessation and healthy dietary habits. Additionally, it is a time when any treatments or monitoring of on-going medical illnesses can be fine-tuned.

Reasons for Physicals for adults

  • Provide screening for cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc
  • Provide time for answering specific questions about your health
  • Provides time for the physician to update you on any new health recommendations
  • Offers time for discussion of common regional illnesses such as lyme disease,
    West Nile virus, influenza, etc
  • Allows the physician to identify any “silent” illness

How to prepare for your physical

  • If laboratory tests were ordered, be sure they are done and that the results have been forwarded to your physician so that you can discuss them and develop a plan when you go in for your physical
  • Write down all your health related questions in advance and bring this list with you
  • Bring in all the prescription medicines you are taking and any over the counter medicine or supplements.

As our population continues to age, the importance of an annual physical will increase as well. Please use this time to focus on improving your health and ask any question, no matter how silly or embarrassing it may seem. After all, it is the physician’s job to help you feel better. As Ben Franklin appropriately stated, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you would like more information on annual physicals please contact
Dr. Michael Smith at Southside Medical Clinic » 715-830-9990.