Most of us go to the doctor only when we're feeling our worst, but scheduling a check-up with your primary care provider when you're not sick is important for a longer and healthier life.
“Coming in once a year for an exam helps me learn about my patient’s overall health,” says Dr. Sara Frankwick, Fairview Clinics – Rogers. “When I see my patients for a cold or another issue, patients are focused on that issue. When they come for preventive care, I get to learn if they sleep well, get exercise, deal with high levels of stress—all these things play a role in chronic disease prevention.”
Exams also include screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and mental health.
“Some illnesses can cause elevated blood pressure," Dr. Frankwick says. "When it’s also elevated at a patient’s check-up, that indicates that we need to pay close attention.”
Catching high blood pressure early could mean the difference between getting it under control with some simple changes in diet and exercise vs. having to go on medication right away if it's at a dangerous level.
Genetics play a role in our health, so your checkup is a good time to update your primary care provider on health conditions in your family.
“Many people rush through that section of the questionnaire,” Dr. Frankwick says, “but it’s a great way for a provider like myself to get information and consider any additional health screenings.”
For women with a family history of breast cancer or with older relatives who've recently been diagnosed, a provider may recommend different or more frequent mammograms, or refer you to a genetics counselor.
“We want to be proactive,” Dr. Frankwick says. “We want to find anything that may become a serious health issue as early as we can.”
Wellness exams have another bonus for provider and patient: relationship building.
“I like getting to know my patients,” Dr. Frankwick says. “I remember conversations that we’ve had before, and that makes it easier for me notice changes in my patients that have happened between visits."