Routine Exams: Important for Your Health Today and Tomorrow
You exercise, eat right (most of the time) and try to keep your stress levels under control — you’re doing great, right? Certainly your doctor would agree, so what’s the point of keeping your annual appointment this year?
Not so fast.
Visiting your doctor means more than just going in when you have the sniffles, aches or breaks. It’s a relationship, a team-based approach for managing your health all lifelong, even when we feel our best.
And sometimes that’s the perfect time to meet with your primary care doctor.
“In the last 15 years, there has been a large shift in medicine; we are taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach,” said Niel Burns, MD, family medicine physician with Avera Medical Group Pierre. “It’s easier to address an issue early, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, before the theoretic wheels come off, like a heart attack or stroke.”
Save Time, Money and Health
A proactive approach saves you money. Managing arthritis today may prevent future joint replacement surgery. Regular screenings, like colonoscopies and mammograms, may shorten treatment if cancer is detected in its earliest stages.
This appointment is mostly a conversation with your doctor about where you stand in your health journey. Think about the last year — did you experience any weird aches or pains? Learn anything about your parents’ or siblings’ health that could affect you? Deal with increased stress?
Perhaps the changes you experienced weren’t all that bad! If you lost weight, your doctor wants to congratulate you and ensure all vitals appear balanced.
“We make sure you are up to date with general health maintenance screenings: Pap tests, DEXA scans, mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.,” said Janell Powell, MD, with Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine Women’s. “We check your blood pressure and discuss necessary labs based on age and medical problems.”
Make the most of your appointment with a little preparation. “Take a few notecards and write down all medications and supplements you are taking, along with the dosage,” said Powell. “Scribble down a few questions as well.” Maybe you’re confused as to what screenings you need and when; your doctor will have your medical records right there to set you straight.
“We all have good intentions to ask questions at these appointments, but writing them down ensures they don’t slip your mind,” she added.
Be Specific, But Don't Be Shy
“Ask anything and everything at all,” encouraged Burns. “When it comes to very personal parts of the body, doctors have seen and heard it all. You don’t ever have to feel ashamed or embarrassed.”
This extends into what you’re putting into your body, too. If you tell your physician you’re taking fish oil and a multivitamin, don’t be afraid to mention that diet pill or protein powder you found online or saw on TV.
If you have something specific you need to talk about, or a screening you would like done, mention it to the receptionist as you’re making the appointment. Because they touch on so many topics during your physical exam, physicians may not be able to fully address your concerns if they’re brought up out of the blue.
Sometimes we think of questions a week after our appointment. Burns and Powell recommend messaging your physician directly using the AveraChart patient portal.
“Your doctor should be your health advocate and easily available for education and follow-up questions,” said Burns. “It’s a relationship worth developing and nurturing all life long.”
Questions Your Doctor Wants to Hear
Make the most of your annual wellness appointment by asking important questions about your health. Your physician will provide answers that are personalized to you. Here are a few to help you get started.
“How can I manage stress better?”
Stress affects you physically and mentally, and can lead to weight gain, heart problems, depression and poor relationships. Because stress has a major effect on your health, it’s always a relevant topic to bring up at an annual wellness exam.
“What’s the best way to reach a healthy weight?”
While it’s tempting to turn to quick fixes and fad diets, your physician can help you find the best diet and exercise program to fit your lifestyle. Not only will you feel more in control of your weight, but exercise is a great way to relieve stress.
“What screenings should I have?”
Your physician should have all of your past screenings in your medical record. He or she can inform you as to what screenings are currently needed and when they should be fulfilled.
“Why am I taking these medications?”
Not knowing how to pronounce your medications is one thing, not knowing what they do is another! Before leaving your physician or pharmacist, make sure you are completely aware of your medications’ purposes.