Wellness Matters

An Annual Physical Exam is the Key First Step in Improving Your Health.

December 14, 2016

An annual physical exam can help you avoid chronic health problems by identifying the steps you can take to prevent them from developing.

Matt McKinney was a 41-year-old male who couldn’t remember his last annual physical exam. He didn’t think he needed one; at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he thought he was in good shape. But when he saw Hannah Kim, DO, of Cone Health Medical Group’s LeBauer HealthCare at Brassfield in January 2015, his blood test showed that McKinney had borderline high cholesterol. Kim talked with McKinney to understand his lifestyle; when she uncovered a family history of heart disease, Kim suggested that McKinney exercise more and eat better.

Risks such as high cholesterol can often be reduced through increased physical activity and diet modification.

“One of my favorite things is encouraging healthy behaviors that prevent people from getting sick,” Kim says.

She further urges adults to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, refrain from risky activities such as cigarette smoking, and avoid foods that are processed or fried. She recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

“Increasing activity level and making healthy diet choices can be amazingly beneficial,” Kim says. “People can reverse bad lab test results, and they’ll feel and look better as they lose weight.”

Kim stresses the importance of an annual physical exam.

“An annual visit that keeps you healthy before you get sick is one of the most important things you can do to live a long, healthy life,” she says.

A physical exam allows your doctor to assess the total picture of your health, including blood test results, activity level, diet, blood pressure, stress levels and whether you smoke. Evaluation results provide insight into your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-third of the 133 million Americans living with a chronic disease are unaware of their condition. Chronic diseases cause seven out of every 10 deaths; many of those could have been prevented were they diagnosed early. An annual physical exam can uncover and prevent potentially life-threatening conditions before your health suffers.

McKinney, he took Kim’s advice to heart. Instead of eating fast food, he packs a healthy lunch. He runs twice a week, and takes a body pump class twice a week. In 18 months, he’s lost 20 pounds and trimmed his cholesterol by 50 points. And, he says, he has more energy to play with his two sons.

“My physical was a wake-up call,” McKinney says. “I learned that treatment doesn’t always have to resort to medicine. There are ways to turn around your health by putting in some extra work.”

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