Visits to the doctor can be very productive with a little preparatory work in advance of the appointment, say experts.
"For some people, visits to the doctor can be daunting or even scary, but there are steps you can take beforehand that will improve the experience, foster communication, and, in turn, improve health outcomes," says Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., president of the American Medical Association (AMA). "By being open and honest with your physician and by asking questions, you can play a key role in preventing the progression of chronic disease and in charting a healthier course."
Here are eight ways to get more from your next doctor's visit:
1. Know your history. A family health history can help your physician and other health care practitioners identify whether you're at a higher risk for particular conditions and diseases. With this information, they can make informed care decisions, from recommending particular treatments or diagnostics to helping you plan lifestyle changes that will help keep you well. Before your next visit, gather as much information as you can to share with your doctor.
2. Be honest. Your doctor will likely ask you about such health habits as alcohol, tobacco, and drug use as well as the amount of exercise you get. It is important to be honest and accurate when answering these questions. Ask your doctor if you use tobacco, drugs or alcohol, and need help quitting.
3. Make a list. Even if you are just going in for a regular check-up, make a list of the things you want to discuss during your visit and bring it to your appointment. Topics may include symptoms you've experienced, ailments you've suffered and more.
4. Get screened. Ask your physician about needed health screenings based on your age, sex and other risk factors including family history. Healthfinder.gov is a good resource for finding recommended preventive services.
5. Learn your risk and take action. Talk with your doctor about your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Before your appointment, you can take a free online self-screening test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org to learn whether you have prediabetes. During your visit, your doctor will need to confirm a prediabetes diagnosis and can help you develop an individualized plan to prevent it from progressing to type 2 diabetes.
6. Get immunized. Please discuss with your physician the importance of vaccination. Many immunizations require boosters after time has passed. Make sure you are up-to-date on your immunizations.
7. Get help. Tell your doctor if you haven't been feeling like yourself and you think you might be suffering from depression.
8. Know your numbers. Track health data such as your height, weight, body mass index and blood pressure in order to share trends with your doctor and take action if needed. Visit LowerYourHBP.org to learn about your blood pressure numbers and the life-altering risks of uncontrolled high blood pressure -- also known as hypertension -- and find a list of questions to ask your doctor to help get your blood pressure under control.
By being prepared with the right questions and information, you can make the most of your next doctor's visit.