What I Learned from my Yearly Physical?





So the last time I went for my ‘yearly’ physical before last month was almost five years ago…and it was because I had to before I started my dietetic internship. Well, I haven’t been sick enough for a doctor’s visit (besides my dermatologist) and since I think I am a fairly healthy person, yearly physical is something I always shrugged off until now. But when my new health insurance rolled in at the beginning of the year, I went ahead and scheduled an appointment because a) I haven’t been to a doctor for a very long time   b) Am I okay inside-out?    c) How are my labs looking? Yearly physical is basically an annual medical exam where you see a doctor, get your labs done, and express your concerns with the doctor to make sure you are as healthy as you feel. Many people fear yearly physical because they rather not know if they have something but I see it an alarm to catch health problems before they occur.Very recently, I read an article on NY Times by an oncologist titled Skip Your Annual Physical….because it does not reduce death rate, very few percentage of people get a true diagnosis of a disease, and it is taking up physicians precious time. The article basically says that yearly physical is worthless. There is another similar story on NPR which says there is very little evidence that yearly physicals are beneficial for healthy adults. I am a health-care professional who works at a hospital mostly dealing with patients with chronic health conditions (think diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension) all of which can be prevented or delayed by being aware of it and making lifestyle changes before the disease progresses. So please don’t get discouraged, worried, or delay your yearly physical. Wouldn’t you rather find out if something is not right ahead of time and fix it before it is too late? Since most health insurance covers yearly physicals, I say “Go Get it Done”.
My physician was a very thorough, he listened to my concerns, then offered his recommendations for labs and tests. The first part of the exam was basically question/answer with the physician about family medical history, weight status, allergies, medications etc which was pretty quick. If you have a family history or some health concerns, this is probably the best time to let your physician know. Next step was a basic physical exam of my overall body for unusual signs, symptoms, marks, growths etc. It involved checking for  individual organ such as head, neck, abdomen, and extremities to make sure everything is normal. Thankfully, we did not find anything abnormal and unusual. Being almost 3-0, per my physician’s recommended for Female Physical Exam which I was hesitant at first but I went ahead and did it. For both males and females, there are certain screening tests that are recommended depending upon your age, family history, and overall health condition. Screenings for women includes breast exam (esp if you have family history, >40 years) and Pap test (for woman > 21 years for screening cervical cancer). While I did not do breast exam at this visit, I did the Pap test which looks for the changes in the cell of the cervix and vagina to detect any precancerous cells. It is not the most comfortable test thing in the world but it’s just something you gotta do and get over it. The test result comes back after a few days and mine was negative…wooop woooop!!

And we come to most anticipated part of this whole visit – my lab work. Being a clinician, I strongly believe in lab works and no matter how I feel or look, lab is a true indicator of our health. Besides the basic CBC (complete blood count) panel, I requested for lipid panel, HgA1c, and Vitamin D-25. Your physician will probably order more or less lab works depending upon your health condition but if you are particularly interested in something. I suggest you check with your insurance prior to see if they cover for it, and have your physician write order so that lab works can be done.

CBC involves your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It helps diagnose conditions such as anemia, infection, bruising, or if you are easily tired. All my labs were in normal range.

HgA1C is a simple blood test done to show the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous 3 months. Given my history and age,  it’s probably a little too much but I wanted to see my numbers. My HgA1C was 5.2% (normal: 4-6%). If you have these risk factors or already have diabetes…I strongly suggest getting your HgA1C checked.

Vitamin D-25 is another test I requested for. Since more than half the nation is deficient in vitamin D levels, I was really curious to see where I stood…and turns out I have insufficient Vitamin D. Normal range: 30-100 ng/ml and I am at 21 ng/ml (deficient), anything <20 ng/dl is deficient, and >100 ng/ml is toxicity which is pretty rare.

Lipid Panel is a set of labs drawn (typically fasting) for checking total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. My labs shows a very interesting result…also I did not truly fast so don’t know how much that affects the result.

total cholesterol: 173 mg/dl  (normal– 0-199 mg/dl)

triglycerides: 97 mg/dl (normal– 0-150 mg/dl)

LDL: 96 mg/dl (0-99 mg/dl)

HDL: 58 mg/dl (40-60 mg/dl)

While all my lipid panels were normal too, my LDL is almost borderline high while HDL is also really good which kind of confuses me.

Overall, I would say it was a good visit to reassure that everything is normal….except that I could  get some sunshine to help with my Vitamin D levels.  I say we need to mandate 15-minute sun break every day. Being a fairly active person with good eating habits, I did not expect my blood cholesterol, esp LDL to be that high. While it’s not a serious concern, I could definitely pay more attention to decreasing my saturated fat intake and exercising more doesn’t hurt anyone. I am pretty stoked about my HDL levels..means I am doing something right? right?






I hope this will encourage you to get your physicals done because seriously it’s not that bad. Everyone will obviously have a different experience depending upon your physician, tests that you may have to do and such but once again, it’s such a great tool to find out what’s going on. You may be spending all your time and effort in living a healthy lifestyle, don’t know want to know where stand? or, if you are someone who hasn’t paid attention to your health in a while, it’s a good opportunity to make necessary changes and get back at your health…

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…so tell me when was the last time you went for your yearly physical? I’d love to hear your experience..

Dixya Bhattarai

Dixya Bhattarai

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