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Annual physical exams not just for schoolchildren, doctor says

Bolingbrook – Back-to-school and sports physicals are an annual ritual for many families this time of the year. But while the focus is on students, preventive exams are just as important for adults, said Dr. Gerald Lofthouse, a family medicine specialist who treats patients at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. Yet only 21 percent of the adult population undergoes preventive health examinations every year, according to a 2007 study by the American Medical Association.

“Regular examinations or checkups by a physician is recommended for all adults to check blood pressure and weight – specifically body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight – and to make sure your vaccinations are up to date,” Lofthouse said. “Prevention is one of the best things we can do to stay healthy.”

High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is often referred to as a silent killer because the only way to determine if you have high blood pressure is to check it regularly, Lofthouse said. Hypertension and obesity are risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, and diabetes among other diseases.

“Catching diabetes in its early stages can prevent a patient from getting eye disease or neurological disease,” Lofthouse said.

Other medical tests should be conducted on a regular schedule over the course of a lifetime. Cholesterol checks are recommended every five years starting around age 20. The Hemoccult fecal occult blood test, which can detect hidden blood in stool specimens as an early indication of colorectal cancer, are recommended annually starting around age 40. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years starting at age 50. Patients also should undergo periodic vision and hearing tests with increasing frequency as they age.

Women should schedule annual pelvic exams and pap smears beginning in their teens or 20s; by the time they turn 40, they should have annual mammograms and regular bone scans. Men, meanwhile, should begin annual testicle exams in their 20s and annual prostate exams starting at age 50, or at age 40 if they are African American.

The periodic physical also gives doctors an opportunity to counsel their patients on such health issues as stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet and drinking moderately, using seat belts and having working smoke alarms in their homes.

Even if you haven’t been to the doctor in years, it’s never too late to start scheduling a periodic physical. That first visit can go a long way in establishing a relationship between a patient and a doctor, which means that the patient will know whom to call when they do get sick, Lofthouse said. It also can empower patients.

“Both men and women should be invested in their health care, not only for long-term prevention of disease but also so they can stay healthy for themselves and their loved ones,” he said.

To find a physician and schedule a physical exam, call (630) 856-7500.


Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.  To find a physician, visit