The yearly check-up – while it has recently come under fire from one study that suggested it may no longer be necessary, it can still be a valuable tool to help you maintain and improve your state of health. Does it have to be once a year? There is no universal answer to that question, as in most things medical it depends on the health status, lifestyle and family history of the individual. But there are some very good reasons to have an ongoing relationship with a healthcare provider, and to make the most of your time with your physician to be sure you are doing everything possible to stay healthy.
Nearly a third of the 133 million Americans with a chronic disease don’t know they have it. According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, as many as 100,000 lives could be saved each year simply by increasing the use of common preventive care services.
Here are some simple steps to prepare for and get the most from your next checkup:
Check your health insurance policy to see what screenings and other tests, procedures, vaccinations, etc., are covered under you plan.
Keep a health journal for at least the week prior to your visit to the doctor. Note any recent changes in your health, level of fitness, sleep patterns, appetite, mood, etc.
If you have specific concerns about your health, make a list to take with you to your appointment.
Take a list of all of the prescription medications, OTC medicines and supplements that you take regularly.
If you are going to a physician for the first time, take a copy of your most recent blood work or other tests that have been taken, or better yet, request that your medical records be sent from your former physician’s office in advance of your appointment.
Check to see if you will need to allow time to fill out medical forms before your appointment. If available, print out copies to complete from your physician’s website to save time.
Take advantage of the time you spend with the nurse as he or she takes your vital signs and measures your weight, blood pressure, temperature, etc. Ask if there have been any significant changes.
Ask your doctor about any screenings or other tests he recommends for your age, current health status and family history.
Ask about any vaccinations you should consider such as the one for tetanus, flu or pneumonia, or ones that may not have been recommended for adults or available in the past such as the shingles vaccination or the new pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination.
Ask about preventative measures such as taking a daily low dose aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke. What about vitamins and supplements?
Be honest. Being truthful about your habits and lifestyle choices, such as whether you get regular exercise, and if you smoke, use drugs or drink alcohol above the recommended drinks per day, gives the doctor the information necessary to provide the appropriate counseling to maximize your health.
Look to the future: Are you anticipating conceiving? Traveling out of the country? Changing marital status? Retiring? Big changes in your life can affect your overall health, so discuss any radical changes you anticipate with your doctor, so he or she can help you prepare for what is next.
Before you leave your physician’s office set a tentative date for your next appointment. Your doctor can recommend the appropriate intervals for your check-ups based on your individual health. Having the next check-up scheduled in advance can help you stay on track and avoid missed appointments and missed diagnoses.