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Why you shouldn’t skip your annual wellness exam

From twisted ankles to elevated fevers to uncomfortable UTIs, it’s important to seek medical care when aches, pains and bugs get you down.  

But good health isn’t just about treating illnesses and injuries. No matter your age or stage of life, annual wellness exams with a primary care provider are an important step to diagnose and treat any conditions you may have. And if you’re in good health, it’s a great way to stay that way. Research shows that preventive care can increase life expectancy significantly, especially among people 30 to 49 years of age.

Annual wellness visits are so important, in fact, that most insurance carriers fully cover their cost. And yet, only about one-fifth of U.S. adults get them.


Why are annual wellness exams important?

One of the most important reasons for an annual wellness exam is to keep you from getting sick.

“Even when someone isn’t experiencing any current health issues, a wellness exam is an opportunity to get in front of disease prevention and better manage chronic conditions that could get worse over time,” said Dr. Jillian McCartney, MultiCare Indigo Primary Care physician.  

Annual wellness visits also provide the opportunity to:

  • Establish your health baseline. When it comes to your health, it’s important to know the basics. When you have a baseline of your resting heart rate, blood pressure, body mass index and other important markers, it makes it easier to know when something’s off.

  • Check in on your mental health. Mental wellbeing is a huge part of your overall health. Your annual wellness visit helps determine your risk for depression, anxiety or other mood disorders.

  • Find out your risk for certain conditions, including cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and others.

  • Learn the best prevention strategies if health risks are identified.

  • Talk about new concerns. Worried about a mole? Wondering why you can’t sleep? If you have health concerns that have been the backburner, your annual exam is a great time to talk with your provider about your symptoms or health changes.

  • Check up on your medications. Your provider will go over the medicines and supplements you’re taking, determine if they are still necessary and dosages are still appropriate, and ensure they aren’t causing any harmful interactions. Medication management is particularly important if you have a chronic condition.


What happens during an annual wellness exam?

During an annual wellness visit, your primary care provider will:

  • Check your vital signs, including body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen saturation.
  • Measure your height and weight.
  • Review of your personal and family medical histories.
  • Review any medications you are taking, both prescription and over-the-counter.
  • Discuss any health concerns you may have.
  • Ask about your current lifestyle and health choices, including stress levels, physical activity, diet, and tobacco, alcohol or drug use.
  • Complete a physical examination, which includes a review of each organ system. This may also include a breast and pelvic exam for women and a genital and prostate exam for men.
  • Recommend tests, screenings or immunizations, depending on your age, risk factors and gender.
  • Provide referrals to cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, dermatologists and other specialists.
  • Ask about your mental well-being.
  • Make recommendations for your health.


What conditions are addressed during a wellness visit?

Annual wellness visits address a range of conditions and topics, including:

  • High cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Skin cancer.
  • Cervical cancer.
  • Thyroid problems and other hormonal imbalances.
  • Chronic conditions, including diabetes, asthma, arthritis, heart disease, COPD and more.
  • Skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis and eczema.
  • Birth control.
  • Lifestyle strategies around tobacco cessation, stress management, nutrition and more.


What should I do to prepare for an annual exam?

Here are some things you can do ahead of time to make the most out of your annual wellness visit:

  • Plan to be open and honest. While some of your provider’s questions might seem overly personal and uncomfortable to answer, the exam room is a judgment-free zone. Honest answers about alcohol and substance use, diet, exercise, sexual activity and your mental health will ensure you get the individualized care you need.

  • Ask if you need to fast. Your primary care provider may order a blood draw during your appointment, which means you shouldn’t eat or drink for several hours before your lab visit.

  • Make a list of current medications you take, including prescriptions, over-the-counter remedies and supplements. You should also list any vaccinations or boosters.

  • Make a list of questions you want to ask the doctor and note any new symptoms or concerns you might have.

  • Bring any medical results from recent tests or screenings.


Why is primary care important?

A primary care provider, or PCP, is the first person you talk with about any medical problem that is not an emergency. They are trained to prevent, diagnose and treat a wide span of health concerns, from physical illness and injuries to emotional and mental issues.

In addition to early diagnosis and treatment, preventive care and chronic illness management, the benefits of seeing a primary care provider include:

  • Personalized care. Regular visits help develop an open, honest and familiar relationship with the person who manages your health.

  • Continuity. A primary care provider is your single point of care for everything related to your health. So, when something comes up (like your blood pressure or a rash that wasn’t there yesterday), you already have a healthcare provider who knows you and your medical history.

  • Coordinated care when you need a specialist. Having a primary care provider often eliminates the need to see a specialist. When you do need additional care for an illness or injury, your primary care provider will manage referrals and collaborate with specialists to ensure you receive the care you need.

  • Lower health care costs. According to a study published by PubMed, U.S. adults who are under the care of a primary care physician have 33 percent lower health costs (and better health outcomes) than those who only see a specialist.


Indigo offers primary care when you need it

Whether you have an established primary care provider or not, Indigo Primary Care is available in-person at select locations or through Indigo Online Care on your favorite device. And you don’t need to wait for face-to-face care. Open appointments for in-person primary care are available within a few days with online booking and registration to make getting care even more convenient for busy people like you.

If you need care after-hours or on weekends, visit one of our convenient Indigo Urgent Care locations. We’re open from 8 am to 8 pm every day to treat most minor illnesses and injuries. Learn more about what we treat.

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