Going to the doctor can be stressful. Whether for a general exam or a specific health problem, there is often so much information to process that we don't think to ask questions during our visit or simply feel embarrassed to ask.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The bottom line is that there are no silly questions when caring for your health. Your doctor won't be able to provide you with the best care if you downplay your health concerns or symptoms.
Keep the following five questions in mind for your next appointment.
1. What screenings or tests do I need?
Most people have a family health history of at least one chronic disease. If you have a close relative with cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, you’re more likely to develop that condition yourself. Before your appointment, gather your family health history, but don't stop at immediate family members. You should also include nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, half-siblings, and grandparents. Bring that information with you to your next appointment.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force provides screening guidelines, but it’s wise to always check with your doctor first. Ask your health care provider what tests you need based on your family history, age, and lifestyle.
2. How much should I weigh?
Maintaining a healthy weight benefits your health in more ways than one. Weight guidelines based on age and height can help you determine your ideal weight range, but it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Talk openly with your primary care physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant about your weight concerns. Your health care provider will consider your lifestyle and existing health issues or medications that may contribute to weight gain or loss. Your body mass index, or BMI, can also help you understand if you fall within a healthy weight category. Be sure to ask your provider about your BMI weight status and what you can do to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Do I need to make any lifestyle changes?
Your everyday habits can have a significant effect on your health. If you sit too much, your doctor may recommend more exercise to lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and other conditions. Starting small and making incremental changes to your lifestyle can make a world of difference.
4. Should I continue taking my current medication or supplements?
Our bodies and health needs are constantly changing, especially as we age. Make sure your primary care physician has a list of your current prescriptions, and ask if your current medications or treatments are still working or necessary. If you haven’t seen your provider in a while, the current dosage may not be sufficient. Also, tell your doctor if you’ve begun a new treatment recently so they can determine if it interferes with anything you're taking. Remember, drug interactions can make medications less effective or cause side effects.
5. Is this pain or discomfort normal?
Minor pain or discomfort is usually nothing to worry about, but anything that lingers is worth checking out. If your pain or discomfort doesn't go away with over-the-counter medication, bring it up at your next appointment. Your pain could be a sign of something serious.
It's important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible with your primary-care physician. Even if you are embarrassed to ask a question, chances are she's heard it before. Just remember that she isn't there to judge you; she's there to help you get -- and stay -- healthy.
*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.