Your Annual Physical Re-Imagined

Like a lot of guys, comedian D.L. Hughley avoids checkups: "My wife knew I was horrified of doctors. [She] said, 'You haven't been to the doctor in four years, so I set up a physical for you. Since you're in your 40s, you're going to have a prostate exam. They call it a 'digital exam.' I thought it meant a camera!"

Whether you're like D.L. and avoid regular checkups or are one of the 45 million Americans who gets one every year, you're probably confused by the do-it/don't-do-it recommendations you've heard. For instance, a 2012 study in BMJ Open found that annual physicals don't help people avoid death, hospitalizations, anxiety or even future appointments. But that doesn't mean they're a waste of time and money, and here's why:

1. Seeing your doctor annually when you are well may aid in future diagnosis and treatment. If you see your doc only when you are "not feeling like yourself," he or she has nothing to compare to your current condition.

2. As a well patient, you'll have an easier time learning how to best communicate with your doc, so you get the attention you deserve. (That's especially important if, like lots of folks on ACA plans, you've recently chosen a new primary care physician.)

3. You can bring in a list of your medications to check if their benefits still outweigh their risks.

4. You can (sorry, D.L.) get health-preserving exams such as a digital rectal exam, a blood pressure check or diabetes screening.

© 2015 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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