Prevention is a topic about which I feel very strongly – we all owe it to ourselves to be proactive about our health, since catching medical issues early, before they have a chance to turn into serious problems, can save us time and money and confer a host of intangible benefits in the long run. Prevention really begins with a yearly physical exam, and it’s important you make the most out of yours in order to help prevent return visits to your doctor’s office throughout the year.
It’s important to come prepared to your physical exam (and any other doctor’s appointment, for that matter). Before you head to your doctor’s office, especially if it’s your first time there, make sure you have a list of essential information in hand:
- Your family health history
- ALL medications and supplements you currently take (including over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies, in addition to your prescription medications)
- All of your allergies (food, environmental, medications)
- Any past medical treatments, surgeries, or hospitalizations
- Your previous immunizations
- Results of previous medical tests or diagnostic procedures
- Any symptoms you may be experiencing or health concerns you have
It helps to bring a notepad with you – you can jot down your essential information on it, as well as any questions you have beforehand or come up with during your visit. When it comes to questions, you should feel comfortable asking anything and everything that comes to mind, but at the very least, the National Patient Safety Foundation suggests you should be asking three key ones any time your doctor discusses tests, treatments, or any other next steps:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
While your doctor is answering these questions, and any others you might have, make sure you take detailed notes so you can ask follow-up questions and have a visual reminder of everything that was discussed during your visit. By coming prepared, asking questions, and taking notes, you’ll ensure that you make the most out of your physical exam, and each and every doctor’s visit.