Have you had a check-up lately?
In keeping with the latest health care trend, the annual physical is dead. Taking its place is the periodic health examination (PHE). What's the difference? The PHE is a customized exam based on each individual's personal health history.

What Happens During a Physical?
The following are the four basic components of a routine physical:

  1. Your Medical History. Prior to your physical examination, you should tell your doctor about your diet, exercise, alcohol and tobacco use, sexual behavior, family history of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes or heart attack, and any symptoms you may be feeling. This information is vital because it affects your risk factors for various illnesses and, consequently, the tests your doctor may decide to give you. So don't wait for the doctor to ask you about everything--volunteer as many details as you think are relevant. And if your doctor doesn't seem to have enough time for you, speak up. If he or she is still not receptive to your concerns, you may want to find another physician.

  2. Physical Exam. The doctor will check your height, weight and blood pressure, and listen to your heart, lungs and carotid artery for abnormalities such as a heart murmur or lung obstruction. A doctor who is very thorough may also check your mouth, ears, lymph nodes, thyroid and rectum and feel your abdomen for abnormalities, and scan your skin for signs of (cancer).

  3. Counseling. After the medical history and physical exam, your doctor should talk to you about any risk factors you may have and discuss what habits you should change to maintain good health. The physician will also tell you what lab tests you need and how often you should have them. This is also a good time to decide with your doctor how often you should have PHEs.

  4. Lab Tests. Some tests, such as mammographies and pap smears, are usually based on guidelines set by respected research organizations like the National Institutes of Health. In addition, your doctor may want to run tests for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis or prostate cancer, and to screen your heart, liver, kidney, blood and urine. The extent of other tests your doctor recommends will be determined by any risk factors you may have based on your medical or family history.

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