Don’t put off today what could save your life tomorrow: The importance of annual physicals
Kitty Finklea, RDN, LDN, AFAA-CPT
Albert Green is a man who likes to get things done. At age 75, he stays active in his church and each month helps distribute food from Harvest Hope Food Bank to over 100 families in his hometown of Timmonsville.
In 2019, he was active but a problem developed. The smell of food made it difficult to eat, and he started losing weight. He kept putting off going to the doctor, but his family was worried and finally convinced him to go.
He went to HopeHealth in Timmonsville and began seeing Timothy Weaver, a family nurse practitioner (now serving patients at HopeHealth on Pine Needles Road in Florence).
“We started seeing Mr. Green in early 2019, and his labs showed he was anemic,” Weaver recalls. “We started treating him and then he began to rapidly lose weight and his sisters were very concerned. He quickly went from a very active, very involved gentleman to coming in extremely weak and barely able to walk. We ended up sending him to the hospital for a blood transfusion and CT scan and found his multiple myeloma.”
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer, and Green was referred to McLeod Oncology and Hematology Associates to chemotherapy treatments.
“I was very surprised that I didn’t have any side effects from the chemo treatments and was able to eat again. I finished my treatments and rang the bell in August of 2020,” Green said. “I still see my oncologist and am in remission. I feel like myself again, and now my appetite is too good! I followed Mr. Weaver to Florence and go to all my provider appointments and don’t put it off anymore.”
It’s important to establish a relationship with a provider you can talk to and make an appointment for any symptoms you’re having as well as getting an annual physical, especially if over the age of 40.
“Why get a physical if nothing is wrong?” you may ask. Physicals are important for an overall health check and to touch base with your provider. It’s also a time to review any medications or supplements and bring up questions you might have about your health or about something you read or discussed with others. And building a good relationship with your provider also helps you both to feel more comfortable.
What does an annual physical include? Every provider has his or her own methods, and physicals are tailored to each individual. Generally, vitals such as weight, heart rate, and blood pressure are taken, routine questions on different body systems are asked, annual blood work is reviewed and often a physical exam is given. The physical exam may include:
Looking in the mouth and ears.
Feeling lymph nodes.
Examining the skin for moles or changes.
Looking for any swelling.
Prostate check for men or breast exam and/or pap smear for women.
Before going to a physical, take the time to write out any questions, update your medications and supplements with dosages, and note any new medical information such as vaccines or diagnoses from other providers. Bring any information such as new symptoms and copies of any data such as blood pressure, blood sugar, exercise or food logs. If possible, schedule bloodwork or procedures ahead of time so you can review lab results at the visit. This is also a good time to discuss stress levels, eating and exercise habits, sleeping problems, pain, mental health issues, or the need for referrals to other health care providers.
“I know Mr. Weaver has my back where my health is concerned and he helped me through a tough time,” said Albert Green. “I’m good now thanks to God, my family, and my medical team. I urge everybody to schedule a checkup with their provider at least once a year and don’t put it off.”