Doctors might be miracle workers, but they’re not clairvoyants. If you don’t communicate with them, they can’t guess the things that are troubling you that you want to address. It’s important, therefore, to be open with your doctor. Ask the right questions and, if you don’t get an answer that you understand, ask again.
Put your dignity and your modesty to one side. Be as open, as blunt, and as detailed as you can, because your health could depend on it.
What follows is a list of questions that you should ask your doctor during your next check-up:
What Tests Should I Get?
Your doctor will probably recommend some tests based on any symptoms you’re presenting. You can also push for additional tests that may be recommended based on certain risk factors, such as your age, weight, family health, and pre-existing conditions.
If you’re a man above a certain age, they may recommend a prostate exam, while women with a history of breast cancer should be screened appropriately for this disease. Tests can be expensive but may be covered by your insurance.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, because the sooner you get a diagnosis, the easier it is to get a cure.
Do My Habits Need to Change?
According to recent estimates, between 60% and 80% of patients lie about their habits. The most common lies concern their diet and how frequently they exercise.
Few people want to admit that they never go to the gym and spend all their time sitting on the couch and eating chips, so they present themselves as someone who walks regularly and eats cleanly. Sometimes, they remain ambiguous, saying things like, “I exercise as much as I can,” “I mostly eat clean foods,” and “I don’t drink too often.” Other times, they outright lie, but in both cases they’re the only ones suffering.
Your doctor isn’t going to give you a medal because you go to the gym every day. Remember, they have seen more of you than your spouse. They know what’s in your blood. They know how high or low your blood pressure is, how much excess weight you’re carrying, and whether you have good lung capacity.
It’s like a child insisting they didn’t steal any cookies even though they have crumbs on their sweater and chocolate on their lips!
Be honest with your doctor and they’ll tell you what needs to change. They’re not going to tell you that you need to go to the gym every day and only eat salads and vegetables. They understand what’s feasible and what’s not. They will simply recommend some minor changes that can improve your health, whether that means reducing your consumption of animal fats and eating more vegetables or exercising a little more.
It’s not just about food and exercise, either. Your doctor should also be informed about:
- Your smoking status. Whether you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day or one cigar at Christmas
- How much alcohol you consume every week, even if it’s only one beer while watching a game or one glass of wine with food
- Whether you consume any caffeinated drinks. It’s not just about energy drinks, coffee, and soft drinks, don’t forget about tea
- If you take any recreational drugs. Be honest, they’re not going to call the police on you
Is There Anything I Need to Know About Medication?
The average patient over the age of 65 consumes 3 to 4 different types of medication and approximately 15% of the population takes more than 5. The more they take, the less likely they are to know what they are taking, but this is not one of those times when ignorance is bliss.
If you suddenly start feeling tired or irritable, it’s important to know which medication might be causing it. For example, if a medication is dangerous when mixed with grapefruit or herbal supplements, you need to know which medication and why.
Ask about the drugs they prescribe, discuss potential side effects, and if they tell you to consume medications at a specific time, ask them why. Is it because they will make you drowsy? Will they have an effect on your bowel habits, will they make you hungrier, and at what point should you stop consuming them?
Am I a Healthy Weight?
The strange thing about weight is that we rarely realize when we’re losing it or gaining it. Unless you’re stepping onto the scale on a regular basis, you may be completely unaware of your weight loss or weight gain.
It’s important, therefore, to speak with your doctor about your weight and ask them if you need to think about losing or gaining a few pounds.
If you have a lot of muscle on your frame, it can be tricky, as many doctors use the Body Mass Index, which focusses only on weight, height, and age. In such cases, they may choose to measure your waist or complete a body caliper test, which will calculate how much fat you’re carrying.
If they insist that you need to lose a few pounds, ask them for some recommendations. Once you follow the steps above, they’ll know what you eat, how much you exercise, and can suggest some changes that will help you shed pounds.
When Should I See You Again and How do I Prepare for My Appointment?
Before the appointment draws to a close, ask your doctor when you should arrange for another appointment and what changes you need to make before that appointment. Should you lose weight, change your diet, take a specific medication, sleep more, or make a record of your daily activities?
The more prepared you are, the easier your next appointment will be. Once that appointment rolls round, you can revert back to some of the points mentioned above, discussing tests, habits, weight, medications, and anything else that’s on your mind.