You’ve enrolled in your healthcare plan and chosen a primary care physician. Now it’s time for a physical exam, an important part of your annual preventive care.
A physical exam is a series of services that helps you stay healthy. Exams help doctors detect signs of diseases or medical issues at their early and more treatable stages.
Preventive care services are typically free and are often grouped into three categories: pediatrics, adult, and women’s health.
Pediatric preventive care
Your newborn is precious, and making sure your baby is healthy is your highest priority. Your health insurance plan will cover several preventive care screenings, including shots or vaccinations, to prevent diseases.
Standard vaccinations for children include those protecting them from measles, German measles, mumps, chickenpox, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza (flu), hepatitis, and others. Doctors may administer vaccines in a baby’s infancy or before they start school.
Also, the Academy of Pediatrics suggests screenings for infants and young children for a variety of conditions and diseases. These include autism, blood pressure, hypothyroidism (a thyroid condition that can impact growth and development), and sickle cell disease (a blood disorder).
Fortunately, you won’t have to see a specialist to receive these preventive care screenings. Your child’s doctor will administer them by taking a tiny drop of blood from your baby’s heel.
As your child grows, the doctor will conduct tests to make sure your child develops normally. These will include screenings for height, weight, and body mass. In addition, the doctor will also monitor stages of development like talking and walking.
Also, medical professionals suggest adolescents receive preventive screenings. These include depression and HIV (for those at higher risk).
Adult preventive care
Your primary care doctor may test you for several conditions during your physical exam.
These may include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, colorectal cancer (for those over 50), and HIV (for those at high risk). While the frequency may vary, depending on your age and health, your doctor may recommend one exam per year or one every three to five years.
You will also receive vaccinations. These may include flu, tetanus, and/or hepatitis. Suggestions for these vaccinations vary by age, state, ethnicity, and other factors.
Additionally, your doctor may offer you information on depression, weight control, and tobacco, alcohol, and drug misuse. Some plans offer free classes on managing these conditions, so you should consider taking advantage of them when needed.
Preventive care services for women
Many tests and screenings are available and recommended for women, with specific exams highly recommended for pregnant women.
The Office of Women’s Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adult women get the following tests:
- Bone mineral density (osteoporosis screening, starting at age 65 or older)
- Breast cancer screening (mammogram)
- Cervical cancer screening (Pap test)
- Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases screenings
Pregnant women will be given these preventive care screenings and separate tests for conditions that are either more common during pregnancy or can be passed along to a baby. These may include anemia, urinary tract infections, and syphilis.
Trained providers may also provide counseling on breastfeeding or advice for caring for your newborn. Your doctor may also ask about alcohol and tobacco use, domestic and interpersonal violence, depression and weight management, and offer resources to help.