DR. BRIAN NADOLNE / AJT //

Has a year passed already? It may be time for that annual doctor’s visit again!

Dr. Brian Nadolne

Dr. Brian Nadolne

If you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t get sick often, you may in fact see your doctor only once a year.

“Forget it,” you think. “I’m healthy. Who needs a physical?”

Some may think that physical exams are not necessary, that they are a waste of time and money.

Maybe those doctors are just recommending annual exams to drum up business, they hypothesize. It is a tough economy, after all!

Others are firm believers in seeing their doctor at least once a year. The visit gives a chance to make sure all is working well.

The answer to whether or not you need an annual check-up lies in your philosophy: Do you want to prevent illness, or do you want to react to illness once it occurs? Would you rather keep that cholesterol and blood pressure down, or deal with the aftermath of a heart attack? Would you rather endure cancer screenings, or go through treatment for later stage cancer?

I know it sounds dramatic, but sadly, I have seen patients face the latter alternatives too many times. I am a firm believer in preventive care; it’s easier than you think and actually saves us all time and money in the long run.

As a doctor, I would rather use our time in the exam room to chat about how to achieve and maintain optimal health than labor on another current illness. Chances are, with the proper plan, we can actually reduce your medications rather than prescribe more.

The annual physical exam gives you and your doctor the opportunity to begin this process. In this extended appointment, you and your doctor have the chance to plan a blueprint for health for the rest of the year.

And the yearly visit is just the beginning. We have the opportunity to affect lives, to help patients create change and to be there for patients in their time of need. As physicians, we have a passion for healing, listening to patients and attending to their concerns.

We must not miss the opportunity to take a preventive moment at each and every visit, regardless of how mundane or inconsequential it may seem. The landscape of medicine is changing, and it is changing rapidly; we have to be creative in how we practice so as to get the most out of each visit.

Make an appointment, build a relationship with your doctor and make sure that you have a blueprint for health. Take control of your future, and become a partner with your doctor so that the two of you can work to attain and maintain your health.

If you use the time with your physician to start planning for the coming years by committing to getting healthy, you can stop reacting to disease. Then, once and for all, you will feel great about the time you spend with your physician.

So go ahead and start: Make that appointment for your annual physical!

Brian K. Nadolne, MD, FAAFP is a family physician in Marietta, Ga. He is the current president-elect of the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, chair of Family Medicine at Northside Hospital, and medical director of Nadolne Family Medicine & Preventive Care.