About a week ago, I got an email reminding me that I’m due for my yearly physical. At first, I felt an enormous sense of dread. After all, who enjoys booking medical appointments and spending an hour (or more) in a doctor’s office? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think of a few nagging questions that I actually would like to ask my doctor. If you’re ever at a loss for what to say during your next checkup, rest assured, there are a few key questions to ask your doctor during your yearly physical, and I’m breaking them all down right here, right now.
When it comes to your annual physical, it can look different from someone else’s depending on your age and your individual health history, but according to the hospital network Piedmont Healthcare, it’s a chance for you to have one-on-one time with your doctor to talk about any issues you’re dealing with, as well as check for anything that might become a problem in the future. Your appointment could include a pelvic exam, STI tests, a clinical breast exam, as well as general health checks, such as a blood pressure test.
If you have a particularly sensitive question, it can sometimes be hard to bring it up, especially if you aren’t very familiar with the doctor you’re seeing. Try setting aside some time before your appointment to brainstorm any health issues you’ve noticed, and consider writing them down so that you don’t forget once the doctor is in the room. "What I have seen work really well is that patients will write down all their issues or symptoms that they are having and will give me the list or give the list to my medical assistant to give to me," Dr. Amanda Khosravi, a Hoag Medical Group physician in Orange County, tells Elite Daily. "I will be the one to start the conversation and ask questions regarding the issues, which oftentimes makes it easier for the patient to open up and discuss their concerns."
Another great way to help your doctor evaluate your health is to bring any medications, supplements, or vitamins that you take to the appointment, suggests Lisa Doggett, MD, MPH, FAAFP, a board-certified family physician in Austin, Texas. Not only will this help you both keep track of what you’re taking on a regular basis, but it can also be a good reminder to reevaluate whether you should switch things up.
If you don’t have a primary care doctor yet and you have insurance, look for one covered by your provider. No worries if you don’t have insurance, though — you can still see a doctor at little or no cost. Visit your local Planned Parenthood office for affordable care options, or use the tool from Healthcare.gov that helps you find free (or low-cost) community health centers in your area.
Is this mole normal?
Your annual appointment is a great time to ask about any skin changes or new moles, lesions, or rashes on your body, Bernadette Riley, D.O., associate professor of family medicine at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine and primary care physician, tells Elite Daily in an email. If you have any areas of concern, make sure to bring up any exposure to toxins, drugs, bites, or travel to endemic areas, she adds.
Is it normal to be this stressed?
Your annual checkup isn’t only for your body. It’s also a great opportunity to ask about mental health concerns. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately, Dr. Doggett recommends asking your doctor whether they have suggestions to help you lower your stress levels. If you think things might be more serious than regular stress, ask questions about any signs of depression you should look out for. "Behavioral health problems are extremely common, but many go unrecognized," Dr. Doggett tells Elite Daily. "Treatment with counseling, sometimes medications, and other strategies can be very effective."
What are my contraception options?
Whether you think you want kids one day or you’re sure you never want to get pregnant, Dr. Doggett says it’s important to feel comfortable asking and talking about contraception during your appointment. If you’re sexually active, ask about different forms of birth control, or discuss whether what you’re currently using is best for you.
If you think you might want to get pregnant in the future, Dr. Doggett suggests opening up that conversation early, even if you don’t want a baby for awhile.
Do you see anything now that could hurt my health down the road?
Look, it’s not like you have to have any new symptoms or health concerns to share with your doctor during your yearly physical, but even if you don’t think anything’s wrong at the moment, Dr. Greg Burrell, co-founder and VP of clinical product at Carbon Health, says that preventative care is an important part of an annual checkup. "It is important to make sure you take action to help prevent disease later, or address any current behavior that may put you at risk down the road, such as diet, alcohol, smoking, etc.," he tells Elite Daily. In other words, turn your conversation to the future by asking what you could begin to do now that will help you stay healthy long into the future.
Am I getting enough sleep?
According to Dr. Burrell, many people neglect to value the importance of a good night’s sleep, and in turn, the importance of being able to manage stress to help prevent illness in the long-term.
Even if you think you’re sliding by with just five hours of sleep on average most nights, Dr. Burrell says it’s best to check in with your doctor, as the lack of sleep could actually be behind symptoms that you might not realize are related.
Do I need any immunizations?
Discussions about immunization status can often be overlooked in annual checkups, says Dr. Linda Pourmassina, a physician at 98point6, an on-demand primary care platform. "Your doctor can help you determine whether you are due for any shots. And if you are planning any international travel any time soon, mention that as well, so that you know how to best prepare for your trip," she tells Elite Daily.
Should I be taking vitamins?
Your yearly physical is a great opportunity to ask about your diet and any supplements you take (or perhaps should be taking), says Dr. Beth Donaldson, medical director and family physician with Copeman Healthcare Clinic. Iron and calcium specifically are two of the most important supplements to ask about, she explains to Elite Daily in an email.
If you’re concerned that you aren’t getting enough nutrients, your doctor can check your iron levels with a simple blood test so that you both know how to move forward. While it may not seem too important, making sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs is one of your main tools for illness prevention, says Dr. Donaldson, so don’t be afraid to ask.
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