A doctor using a stethoscope in a patient’s annual physical exam.

11 Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider During Your Annual Physical Exam

Get the most out of your annual physical exam by knowing the most important questions to ask your healthcare provider.

1. Should I Be Concerned About High Blood Pressure?

The first step in any physical examination is checking vital signs like heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. For some people, these numbers are confusing, and they don’t know what is considered high blood pressure.

Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider to clarify the range your blood pressure should be in. Blood pressure is a key indicator of heart and vascular health, so it’s important to understand what these numbers mean and where your numbers should be. Your doctor can provide guidance based on your age, medical history, weight, and individual health goals.

2. What Immunizations Do I Need?

Immunizations and vaccinations are vital aspects of maintaining overall health and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Ask your healthcare provider which ones they recommend based on your age, medical history, and lifestyle.

By proactively discussing immunizations and ensuring your vaccinations are up to date, you safeguard yourself and contribute to community immunity. Regular communication about vaccines with your healthcare provider ensures you don’t miss your shot.

3. Which Health Screenings Should I Have — and How Often?

Early detection of cancer and other serious health problems through regular health screenings saves countless lives each year. Ask your primary care provider for a full list of the health screenings they recommend based on your age, gender, and family history risk factors. For example, women should begin getting annual mammograms at age 40, but for those with a family history of breast cancer, those screenings should begin at a much earlier age. Similarly, someone with a family history of diabetes can work with their healthcare provider to monitor their blood sugar and glucose levels more often than those who don’t.

Regular screenings and lab tests play a pivotal role in identifying health conditions in early stages when treatment or preventive measures are the most effective. For example, annual pap tests detect cervical cancer, saving thousands of women’s lives each year.

Common Health Screenings

    • Breast Exam and Mammogram
    • Pelvic Exam
    • Blood Test
    • Pap Test
    • Prostate Exam
    • Urinalysis
    • Various Cancer Screenings

4. Do I Need a Blood Test?

It’s best to get a blood test done before your annual check-up. Most doctors ask you to get one a week or so before your appointment; if not, call the office and ask if you should get a blood test before your doctor’s visit.

Blood tests help you and your doctor assess and monitor your overall health by testing for complete blood count (CBC), red and white cell counts, cholesterol levels, thyroid function,  blood glucose levels, and more. Regular tests can catch problems early and help you monitor risk factors.

5. Can You Explain My Test Results?

So, you went through all your health screenings and are at your annual doctor’s visit; now what? Make sure you ask your healthcare provider to go over your test results with you. You should also be sent a copy, but still, take the time to go over the test results with your provider so you can understand your health — and know what to watch out for in future screenings.

6. Are My Medications Still Relevant?

It’s important to check in with your healthcare provider on the medications you are taking. As your general health changes over time, some medications may no longer be needed — or some may need to be added. Your annual appointment is a great time to talk with your doctor about potential alternatives to medications as well.

7. Should I Be Taking Vitamins or Supplements?

Vitamins and supplements are a common way that many people practice preventive care and nutritional health. Before taking whatever you can find over the counter though, ask your provider what would be the most helpful for your overall health. They can help you choose what would benefit you and what to avoid that could contradict other medications, diets, or health plans.

8. Do You Recommend a Specific Diet for Me?

Depending on your health history, it may be beneficial to discuss your dietary needs with your healthcare provider — and not just for weight control! While, yes, it’s beneficial for some people to talk through diet plans with their doctor to lose or gain weight, that’s not the only reason why you should ask about specific diet recommendations.

You may have an allergy, food intolerance, or another health condition that would warrant a special diet (and has nothing to do with weight). For example, someone who has or is at risk for heart disease may be advised to limit unhealthy fats,eat more fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains foods, avoid high-fat protein sources, and limit sodium to help manage or prevent further health concerns.

9. Are My Anxious or Depressed Feelings Normal?

If you’re having mental health concerns, talking to your primary care provider is a good first step. While everyone feels stressed or has a bad day from time to time, it can be hard to know when those feelings stop being normal and are cause for concern.

Start the conversation by expressing your concerns openly and honestly. Make sure to thoroughly explain your symptoms, their duration, and how it impacts your daily life. From this conversation, they can start to assess your situation and give you a referral to a mental health professional, if needed.

10. What Lifestyle Changes Can I Make to Improve My Health?

From diet and exercise to stress management and kicking bad habits, there are plenty of ways to improve your overall health; make sure to ask your healthcare provider during your appointment for their recommendation. Even something as simple as getting an extra hour or two of sleep every night can mean a big difference in your health, which is something you can talk through with your care provider.

Your primary care provider is uniquely capable of helping you determine a health plan that works well with your medical history, health goals, family history, medications, and more.

11. When Should My Follow-Up Appointment Be?

Before you leave your annual exam, the final question to ask your provider is when your next appointment should be. If there are ongoing health issues, they may want you to follow up in the next couple of months or so. If not, go ahead and schedule your next appointment for a year from now! Annual exams are the best way to ensure you’re on the right path toward your health goal.

Remember, these questions are just a starting point, and you should feel free to ask your healthcare provider any additional questions or seek clarification on any health concerns you may have. Open communication with your primary care provider is key to maintaining good health.

Need a new doctor or ready to schedule your annual physical exam? Call Meridian HealthCare today to schedule an appointment!