A routine physical examination ensures that you stay in good health. A physical can also be a preventive step. It allows you to catch up on vaccinations or detect a serious condition, like cancer or diabetes, before it causes problems. During a routine physical, your doctor can also check vitals, including weight, heart rate, and blood pressure.
What To Expect
Updated Health History
Your doctor may ask for an update on new developments and changes in your health history. This may include questions about your job and relationships, medications, allergies, supplements, or any recent surgeries.
Vital Sign Checks
This includes taking a blood pressure reading and checking your heart rate and respiratory rate. Your blood pressure should be checked at least once every year to once every three years, depending on your history.
Your doctor will review your appearance for signs of any potential conditions and check the parts of your body that could visually indicate any existing health issues. This includes examining the following:
- musculoskeletal system, such as your hands and wrists
- nervous system functions, such as speech and walking
As the physical exam continues, the doctor will use tools to look in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. They’ll listen to your heart and lungs. This exam also includes:
- touching, or “palpating,” parts of your body (like your abdomen) to feel for abnormalities
- checking skin, hair, and nails
- possibly examining your genitalia and rectum
- testing your motor functions and reflexes
To complete the physical, your doctor may draw blood for several laboratory tests. These can include a complete blood count and a complete metabolic panel. The panel tests your blood plasma and can indicate any issues that exist in your kidneys, liver, blood chemistry, and immune system. This helps detect irregularities in your body that might indicate a larger problem. Your doctor may request a diabetes screen and a thyroid screen. If you have an increased risk of heart attack, heart disease, or stroke, they may also request a lipid panel (cholesterol test).