Here’s how to make sure you’re the most important player in your health care journey.
Want to stay healthier? Of course, going to the doctor is important. But the most essential aspect of managing your health starts with you. By taking charge of your health and being proactive in your health care, you can make a positive difference in how healthy you are and how good you feel.
Here are 4 ways to take charge so you are in the driver’s seat of your own health:
- Keep track of your health information. When you go to the doctor, they keep track of key health indicators such as your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, vaccinations, screenings, prescriptions and other information. While it’s important for them to have this information on file, it’s equally important that you keep track of it, too. Many doctors offer online portals now so it’s easier to access the information when you need it. If not, keep your own records. This makes it easier for you to see what you need to work on and to track progress as you make strides toward a healthier you.
- Be your own advocate. Take an active role in your health care by speaking up and asking questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions, especially when you may not understand something. Let doctors know how you feel. Tell them your preferences for tests, treatments and procedures (but also listen to their expert opinions). Ask specific questions about any aspect of your health you’re not sure of, whether it’s about treatment options, costs, prognosis or side effects. If you feel that a doctor is not supporting your choices or does not appear to make recommendations that align with your expectations, find a new doctor.
- Make appointments for screenings. It’s up to you to keep track of when you need recommended health screenings and to make appointments to have them done. Make a list of any health screenings you need and how often you should get them. Then put it on your calendar so you remember when it’s time to schedule appointments. If you’re not sure when you’re due for a screening, ask your doctor.
- Make physical and mental health care a priority every day. Don’t just focus on your health when something hurts or doesn’t feel right. The best way to live a healthier life is by working to prevent health issues from occurring, rather than having to treat them once you’re dealing with a problem. To that end, make it a priority to put your health first each and every day. Focus on eating healthy food, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Get enough sleep and find ways to minimize stress. Don’t smoke and limit alcohol. Keep your mind active and nurture social relationships. Laugh and have fun.
“Self-care is so important, and the cost of preventing poor health is much cheaper than treating diseases,” said Tammy Shaff, Director of Community Health with St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Daily choices impact the future, so please choose health. Take a proactive role in taking care of your body, work closely with your doctor, and don't hesitate to ask questions.” Tammy also adds that “a good healthcare team will take the time to make sure you are knowledgeable and empowered to manage your health. When meeting with your doctor, be prepared on what you want to discuss to make the most of the time together. Advocating for your health can be challenging when you are not even sure what to ask your doctor. Do your research, be prepared, and don't be embarrassed to ask questions.”
For more information on St. Joseph’s Medical Center’s Community Health resources, please visit here.
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Date Last Reviewed: August 18, 2023
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD