NATIONAL - Do you get a checkup every year or do you think it's a waste of time? A new study examines the issue.
Lora Muchmore says annual exams are as important as tune-ups for your car. "You don't let your car go beyond the regular maintenance schedule. If you do that, then the car stops working. And it makes more sense just to get it tweaked along the way."
It makes 'sense,' but not everyone agrees with her. Dr. Ebony Boulware says, "There's been a lot of debate as to whether or not annual checkups or the annual exam has any benefit for patients."
So Johns Hopkins researchers did a study to see if the yearly checkup had any value. Dr. Boulware says, "We went to all of the published literature from as far back as we could find."
They looked at exams patients have, not when they're sick, but while they're still healthy. Dr. Levy encourages patients to have those visits, "If I get to see my patient at least once a year, I've got a chance to look for things before they get out of control and we can be proactive."
The Hopkins study showed that patients who get regular checkups are more likely to keep their cholesterol in check and get screened for diseases like colon or cervical cancer. Dr. Levy says, "A lot of the stuff that everyone knows needs to be done but often won't go out of the way to schedule unless they're coming in for a routine checkup."
Researchers also found that patients who get regular exams are less stressed out about their health. Muchmore says, "It's a bit of a relief to know that things are going well and medications being adjusted appropriately."
During one of Lora's exams, doctors found early signs of a potentially serious heart problem. "My father actually had it and they found his very late, and he passed away from it because, and I think one of the reasons is they didn't catch it as early as they did in me."
So in her opinion, an annual exam can be a life saver.
Doctors recommend you start annual checkups when you're 18-years-old. You may want to check your health insurance before you make an appointment to see what they cover.