Why annual physical exam is a must

It is no surprise that getting fit and eating right remain the top resolutions people make each and every New Year. If there is anything that the pandemic has taught, it's the value of life and how a healthy body can protect people from diseases like the deadly coronavirus.

But before jumping on the exercise bandwagon or replacing the contents of the fridge with healthier choices, consider taking an annual physical exam or executive checkup.

Annual physical exams give patients idea of where they are and how they are doing health-wise. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO"The annual physical exam gives you an idea of where you are and how you are doing health-wise," said Dr. Minerva Laconico of Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed).

"According to a 2017 study by the Department of Health, more than 12 million Filipinos are hypertensive. Yet half of them — roughly 1 in 4 people — are unaware of it. Same with diabetes: 1 in 14 Filipinos live with diabetes but many do not know they are diabetic until they experience the symptoms of this 'silent killer.'

"Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other vital information could spell the difference between a healthy person and one who may suddenly suffer a heart attack or stroke. It is highly recommended that all of us, regardless of age, undergo an annual physical exam."

Not convinced? Here are three reasons why scheduling annual physical exam in January is a must:

To have a health baseline

Annual physical exam packages vary, depending on what a patient's doctor recommends, but most include the following:

Body Mass Index. Body mass is determined by a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.

Blood pressure. A digital blood pressure machine or manual sphygmomanometer is used to read two measurements: the upper number or systolic (measured when the heart beats, when the blood pressure is at its highest) and the lower number of diastolic (measured between heart beats, when blood pressure is at its lowest).

It is highly recommended to undergo an annual physical exam, regardless of age. PHOTO FROM PEXELS.COM"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg, no matter your age," Dr. Laconico explained.

Why annual physical exam is a must

Blood test. Through a blood test, doctors can get a clear picture of your total lipids, or fats and fatty substances used by the body as a source of energy. These include cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein [HDL or "good cholesterol"], and low-density lipoprotein [LDL or "bad cholesterol"].

"For total cholesterol, aim for 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less. For HDL, 60 mg/dL or higher is good and protects you from heart disease. For LDL, less than 100 mg/dL is ideal," said Dr. Laconico.

Fasting blood sugar. An overnight fast of eight to 10 hours is required for a test that measures the sugar in your blood.

"The CDC says a fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal. 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes."

Treadmill test. Doctors primarily use a treadmill test — where patients will be asked to exercise on treadmill while being hooked up to an electrocardiogram (EKG) — or exercise stress test to help determine if one's heart receives enough oxygen and proper blood flow when it needs it the most.

Abdominal Ultrasound. The procedure captures images of the structure and movement of the kidneys, liver, gall bladder, bile ducts, pancreas, spleen, and abdominal aorta and other blood vessels. "It helps diagnose pain or enlargement of those organs, and provide information on their overall condition."

Physical exam. A general physical examination usually covers everything from vital signs, vision acuity, to cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal assessments, and neuro exam.

To develop good health habits

"Knowing the results of your annual physical motivates you to continue with your healthy practices," Dr. Laconico pointed out. "It may also be a wake-up call to finally do something about your health, like cutting back on sweets or salty food and signing up for a virtual Zumba class or committing to walk every day."

To establish a relationship with health practitioner

"Your doctor will not only know the details of your medical history, he or she would have followed your progress through months and years, and will be able to recommend treatments suited to your needs. You in turn would have developed a level of trust with your primary physician, making you comfortable enough to speak honestly and from the heart about your health concerns."