Checking in with your primary care physician once a year does more than help keep your health on track. It helps you build a relationship with a physician who, in turn, develops a better understanding of your individual health needs.
You may not give much thought to your annual physical exam. But whether you are healthy or having some problems, you can get more out of your check-up if you do a little advance planning. Here are some tips:
* Relax. Your doctor is your ally in keeping you healthy. Find a doctor you are comfortable communicating with and trust.
* List your questions and concerns. Before your appointment, make a list of what you want to ask.
* Describe your symptoms. Tell your doctor when these problems started and how they make you feel. If you know, say what triggers them and what makes you feel better.
* Bring a list of your medications. Before you leave home, make a list of all your prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbal and other supplements you're taking. Include dosages and frequency of use. You can bring the bottles along to the doctor's office, if you prefer.
* Describe allergies to drugs, foods, pollen, or other things.
* Be honest about your diet, physical activity, smoking, alcohol or drug use, and sexual history. Your doctor is more concerned about your health than in making judgments. You can also discuss domestic violence and mental health concerns. Everything you say will be kept confidential.
* Be aware of your family history. Knowing about conditions that run in your family can be important as you may be at risk for developing the same condition.
* Tell your doctor or nurse if you are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. Some medicines may not be suitable for you. Other medicines should be used with caution if you are pregnant or about to become pregnant.
* Don't forget to mention if you are being treated by other doctors. Your doctor will need to know about any other tests or treatments you are having, and may need to talk with any specialist you are consulting.
* Ask questions about any tests needed. Get instructions how to prepare for the tests. Ask if there are any dangers or side effects. Find out when and how to get the test results.
* Ask questions about your condition or illness. If you are diagnosed with a condition, ask your doctor how you can learn more about it. What caused it? Is it permanent? What can you do to help yourself feel better? How can it be treated?
* Ask about your options. If you have an illness or condition, be sure to ask about all of your options for treatment. Ask about side effects, expected results, cost, and health insurance coverage.
* Ask about any medicines. Make sure you understand how to take your medicine. Are there any foods, drugs, or activities you should avoid when taking the medicine? Is there a generic brand of the drug you can use to save money?
* Don't be afraid to speak up. If you're not clear about what your doctor is telling you, ask the doctor to explain it again and use terms you understand.
Your check-up is your time to focus on your health. Make the most of it.