Get your annual physical today

Have you had your annual physical?

An annual physical gives our doctors a chance to learn more about you – and not just through what we see as the result of tests and exams. Here are some of the things we'll look at:

A thorough family and personal history. That information will help point out areas where we might need to take a closer look so we can ward off potential problems early.

Your Body Mass Index number. We'll also talk about your diet and exercise habits, perhaps pointing you toward changes that can mean a more healthful future.

A review of medications you're taking and vaccinations you might need.

An EKG. If recommended by your doctor, this noninvasive heart test that can reveal the cause of unexplained pain or symptoms as well as give us an excellent analysis of how well the body's engine is performing.

Blood pressure check. If it's off we'll take a look at possible reasons. Is there a family history of diabetes that needs to be considered? Could simple changes in diet and exercise put you back on track? A cholesterol test. (link to cholesterol article) This screening is crucial, because high cholesterol has no symptoms but, if left unchecked, can lead to serious complications if plaque builds up in your body and causes arteries to constrict.

Complete blood count. Those results can tell you if your levels of white cells, red cells and platelets are where they should be. Problems here can indicate anything from an infection to anemia to cancer.

Urine test. This gives us an idea about the general health of your kidneys and also can be used as a preliminary screen for diabetes. Men will undergo prostate exams.

When you're finished with your physical, you'll have a complete overview of your health. We hope all results are glowing. If there's an indication that something is a little off, though, we can help you plan follow-up care. We can talk to you about lifestyle changes that can help keep minor issues from becoming huge problems.

Most of all, we can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you're doing the best for yourself, your loved ones and your future.

Most insurance providers fully or partially cover an annual physical. Check with your provider to see if you're eligible. If you have a flexible spending account, you may need to schedule appointments before the end of the year in order to be reimbursed for any co-pays or deductibles.

Don't wait until there's something wrong to call for an appointment. With our convenient locations and flexible hours designed to work around your life, Doctors Care offers the care you need, when and where you need it.

Schedule an appointment today.

Know your numbers

• Less than 100: LDL cholesterol target

• More than 60: HDL cholesterol target

• 70-150 mg: Normal blood sugar levels

• 18.5—24.9: Normal range for BMI

• Below 120/80: Normal blood pressure

• Every year: How often adults need flu shots

Cholesterol counts: What do they mean?

Cholesterol itself isn't automatically bad. About 75 percent of it, in fact, is created by our bodies. The rest comes from the food we eat.

But there's also good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and too much of a bad thing can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. That's why screening is so crucial. There usually aren't any physical signs of high cholesterol until serious problems develop. The only way to know you're at risk is through testing.

Cholesterol counts comes in two numbers. HDL is the "good" cholesterol that can actually help keep the "bad" cholesterol from forming plaque that can adhere to arteries. High levels of HDL can protect you from heart attack or stroke. Anything above 60 is considered a healthy level of HDL.

LDL is the "bad" cholesterol. Too much of it in your body can clog your arteries, preventing your blood from flowing as it should. How much is too much? Anything above 100.

If screening shows that one's too high and the other's too low, your challenge is to find a combination of diet, exercise and, perhaps, medication, that will bring you to a healthful balance.

Heredity also can play a role – some people's bodies simply produce too much cholesterol. In most cases, though, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can encourage good cholesterol. Not smoking, eliminating trans and saturated fats in the diet and adding healthful fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, fish and beans can tamp down the bad number. Your daily total fat intake should be no more than 30 percent of the calories you consume.

It's in your blood

Your blood is made up of white cells, red cells and platelets. Numbers for each tell different tales about what's going on inside your body. The numbers can help doctors figure out why you're having certain symptoms or lead them to diagnose disorders.

In fact, if you want to play "CSI: The Human Body" your blood is a great place to start.

Your white cell counts tell a lot about your immune system. That's because white cells play a vital role in protecting your body, and they'll fire up when they sense an invader present. That invader could be an infection, an allergy, a reaction to a medication or a condition such as leukemia.

Your red cells carry oxygen throughout the body and carbon dioxide back to your lungs. If your count is too low, you're anemic. Correcting that condition often can be as simple as getting more iron in your diet. If it's too high, the red cells will clump and block tiny blood vessels. In either situation, your body isn't getting the oxygen it needs for peak performance. Doctors also will look at a hemoglobin test to measure the blood's ability to carry oxygen.

Platelets, the smallest type of blood cell, are important in clotting. Too few platelets can cause uncontrolled bleeding, while too many can cause clots to form in blood vessels or, possibly, harden your arteries.

It's easy to see why a complete blood count is so important. The information doctors glean from the results can hold the answers the many things that could be ailing you.

BMI one of the most vital statistics

Used to be, people worried mainly about their weight. These days, though, there's a better way to gauge whether the number you see on the scales should concern you. The measurement is called BMI, and it's a pretty accurate indicator of the percentage of fat in your body.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, BMI is the best way to determine if someone is overweight or obese. Although BMI does not directly measure body fat, the CDC says research has shown that BMI closely dovetails with expensive or extensive testing that does measure fat.

BMI is a simple calculation based on height and weight. The resulting number will help determine if you're underweight, normal, overweight or obese. A BMI ranging from 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy.

It's not the final answer, though. Women tend to have higher percentage of body fat than men even if their BMIs are the same. That also holds for older people versus younger adults. And athletes might have higher BMIs but lower levels of body fat because their muscles weigh more.

But BMI is a great starting point. If that number raises concerns, doctors then can look at other body measurements and risk factors to determine how to proceed.

Two vaccines that really count

Though the flu season officially begins in October, it's not too late to get a flu and/or pneumonia shot. The season doesn't peak until February and extends through May.

Who should get shots? Anyone who wants to avoid the pain and discomfort of prolonged aches, chills and fever. For a number of groups, though, an annual vaccination is crucial. People who fall into these categories can suffer more from complications stemming from influenza:

• Pregnant women

• Children younger than 5, but particularly those younger than 2. Those younger than 6 months old cannot be vaccinated.

• Diabetics

• Asthmatics

• People living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities

• Health-care workers

• Anyone whose household includes someone in a high-risk group

The "flu shot" now comes in two forms: Injection and a nasal mist. The mist, however, is approved only for those ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant. Asthmatics cannot take the mist either.

People who are allergic to egg cannot take either form of the vaccine. That's why it's crucial for people they live and work with to be vaccinated, especially if the allergic person falls into a group at risk for serious complications from the flu.

Similarly to the flu shot, the pneumonia shot can protect groups at risk for serious complications. Increasingly, strains of pneumonia are resistant to antibiotics. That means prevention is even more important.

For most people, one pneumonia shot is all that's needed. Certain risk groups might need a second vaccination in their lifetimes, though: Those older than 65, people with kidney or spleen problems, those with sickle cell anemia or cancer or those who have received organ or bone-marrow transplants. Check with your doctor if you're concerned.