You don’t get a whole lot of time to spend with your doctor. Best case scenario, you’re in his or her office for a total of 20 minutes per year, usually during your annual exam. Because you probably don’t have unlimited access to your physician, you’ve got to make every minute of your checkup count. Ideally, you’ll come away from your annual feeling well-informed and confident about your health, with tools that will improve your quality of life and general well-being. Here are some important questions to ask your general practitioner when you make your annual visit.
1. Can I Access My Health Records?—These days, patients want more and more transparency from their medical professionals, especially when it comes to their own information. Asking your doc to provide you with access to your electronic health records is a good place to start. This will allow you to properly relay information to other health providers, to make sure all information is accurate and to track your own progress.
2. How’s My Weight?—If you’re not significantly overweight or underweight, there’s a good chance that your doctor might gloss over this tidbit all together. But the thing is, we typically don’t know exactly how much we should weigh given our specific circumstances, so asking your doc outright isn’t a bad idea.
3. How’s My Blood Pressure?—The same goes for your blood pressure and other vital signs. While your nurse or doc may fill you in after taking your BP, you may not know whether or not the results are good or bad. Simply asking whether or not your vitals are at a healthy level will help you understand more about what, if anything, you need to change with regard to diet, exercise and sleep.
4. What About My Family History?—These days, your family history is a key part of your medical evaluation, cluing professionals into conditions that you may be particularly prone to. After outlining your family medical history, ask whether or not the patterns are significant. For example, the American Cancer Society says that whether a cancer comes from your mother or father can make a difference in your likelihood of developing that specific type of cancer.
5. Is it Time for Screenings?—Generally, people either want to know everything that could threaten their health or nothing at all. If you’re part of the former group, make sure to inquire with your physician about screenings. New detection technologies emerge every day to help identify early stages of cancer, heart disease, stroke risk and more.
6. Is (That Thing I Read) True?—Physical health and nutrition are two of the most buzzworthy news categories, and the ones that are most susceptible to misreported facts. Throughout the year, you’ve probably come across a few things that piqued your curiosity–maybe it’s that coffee can allegedly fight cancer or that drinking apple cider vinegar can help you lose weight. Ask your doctor to validate or debunk these claims.
7. When Should I Come Back?—For most of our lives, a once-a-year checkup is sufficient, but as we age, we may require visits more often. Ask your physician whether or not you should be scheduling appointments more often. A new diet, medication, test result or health concern that needs to be monitored might require you to visit the doctor more often.
8. What Other Doctors Should I See?—Another thing that happens as we get older is that we have recurring issues that worsen or persist. Ask your doctor if you should build in annual checkups at other offices—the dermatologist, the cardiologist, etc—in order to monitor specific issues or risk factors.
With all of these helpful questions, you’ll come away from your annual visit feeling informed and ready to take on a new year with good health in mind! To ensure that you don’t forget any important questions, write down your list before you go and inform your doctor that you have specific questions to ask. A good doctor will take the time necessary to answer all of your questions.