“Any questions for me?” – it’s easy to convince ourselves that this is just a formality. After completing your annual physical, your primary care doctor is likely wondering if there’s been any boxes left unchecked.
Truth be told, the open air can be slightly intimidating. Of all the aching pains and pesky sniffles you’ve endured in the past year, it all comes down to one moment. You’re being asked to determine if any of the symptoms you’ve experienced are serious enough to bring up to your doctor.
For most patients, physicals are only scheduled once a year. A reminder: This time is your time. And if nothing comes to mind, trade in the customary “I’m all set” for the five most important questions you should ask your doctor at your next exam.
5 NECESSARY QUESTIONS TO ASK AT YOUR NEXT PHYSICAL
1. HOW CAN I LOWER MY RISK FOR HEART DISEASE?
Heart disease is no joke. It’s remained as the leading cause of death in the United States for close to a century. Regardless of your age or gender, heart health is a great baseline indicator of overall well-being.
Patients can show their heart some love by getting more exercise, eating a healthier diet, or kicking bad habits like smoking or fast food indulgences. Your primary care doctor can make personalized suggestions for the ways that you can prioritize a healthy heart in everyday life.
2. WHICH CANCERS SHOULD I BE GETTING SCREENED FOR?
Though not all cancer screenings can be performed in a primary care setting, your doctor can act as a touch point for your recommended screenings. These will vary from person to person based on equally important factors: age, gender, family medical history.
Both you and your primary care doctor should be motivated to keep you up-to-date on the screenings that are appropriate for you, and your doctor can also refer you to a specialist to schedule an appointment.
3. SHOULD I BE WORRIED IF *SYMPTOM* HAPPENS REPEATEDLY?
No one feels their best 100% of the time. Not drinking enough water, trouble sleeping, and the stress of everyday life are all lifestyle factors that may take away from that. However, even minor symptoms can prove to be worrisome if they persist longer than two weeks, and to the extent that they affect your quality of life. Examples may be:
- Digestive problems
- Joint pain
General rule: If it’s bothering you, bring it up to your primary care doctor! That’s what they’re for, after all.
4. ARE THERE PREVALENT HEALTH ISSUES IN OUR REGION THAT I SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT?
Oftentimes, the way of life in a particular area can affect the health of its residents more than we care to think about. The counties of Western New York perform community health assessments that compare prominent health issues in our region to state and federal data. This allows decision-makers to consider how to address these problems, but also shows us the link between lifestyle and overall wellness.
Western New Yorkers have notably high occurrences of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease – all conditions that can be side effects of unhealthy lifestyle habits. These may include an unbalanced diet, excessive weight gain, smoking, and a lack of physical exercise. Limited access to exercise facilities in our inner city areas and a prolonged winter that keeps everyone indoors are examples of factors that may contribute.
5. WHAT CAN I DO TO IMPROVE MY MENTAL HEALTH?
We’re lucky to be living at a time when every day, more and more people seem to understand how feelings of depression or anxiety can affect quality of life. Studies show that these mental health issues can impact everything from our diet and exercise routine to our social skills, and other indicators of wellness.
Most primary care providers take great care to incorporate questions about mental and emotional health into annual physical examinations. But don’t wait for your doctor to broach the subject! If you’re experiencing any mental health struggles, talk to your doctor. He or she may have suggestions for activities that promote self-care, or they may recommend you speak with a therapist.