Whether your annual checkup is just standard procedure or you have pressing concerns to discuss, great questions open a meaningful conversation about your health.
They’ll also help you maximize the limited time with your care provider. In addition to any concerns you have, what would you most like to discuss or learn in this visit? Try the questions in this article to guide the conversation and ask for specific steps toward improvements.
Come Prepared with Details and Honesty
Your care provider needs an honest view of your health to answer some of the questions below. They’ll need an updated record of your medical history, family medical history, and a list of all the medications, herbs, and supplements you take. Typically, you can update your record online before the appointment.
While answering your care provider’s questions, be completely honest, even if it’s difficult. You might be tempted to underreport something like how many drinks you have a week, or how many times you felt depressed last month. Your care provider needs to know these details to help you achieve your best health and prevent complications, especially if you take medication.
Great Health Questions to Ask
If you have an ongoing health problem, these questions will likely be about your current treatment plan and results. However, your “numbers,” including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and body mass index (BMI) might alert you to a change in your health. Questions to ask:
- Have my numbers/levels changed?
- Are any of them a concern?
- If so, what lifestyle changes can I make to improve this?
- Can we create a treatment plan without medication?
In addition to these health indicators, your family’s medical history may warrant preventative measures or screenings. You have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and strokes if there’s a family history. If your care provider doesn’t ask about family history, bring it up.
- Based on my family’s medical history, what are my biggest health risks?
- Does the risk increase as I age?
- Should I have a screening for that?
- Are there any warning signs I can watch for?
Sometimes, we’re not certain if something is an issue worth discussing or simply a change in pattern. When it comes to our emotions, sleep patterns, sexual health, energy levels, or even how our skin looks, it’s worth asking:
- Is this normal?
- Should I be concerned?
Asking About Alternative Care Options
Prescription drugs used to be a first option for treatment, but many doctors now take a holistic approach to wellness, blending traditional medicine with alternative treatments. It’s worth asking about alternative care options and natural solutions, especially if they could replace a prescription. Here are more questions to consider asking:
Could I stop taking a medication?
Prescriptions solve problems, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, yet you may be able to get results without medication. Ask your care provider how you can safely drop a prescription, or possibly lower the dose as a first step.
Which supplements should I take? May I have a prescription for them?
Most of us take supplements or are curious about adding them. Ask which supplements make the most sense for your personal health. You may be able to use your health savings account (HSA) to pay for supplements and/or possibly deduct them from your taxes - but only if you have a doctor’s prescription for them. Your HSA administrator or certified public accountant can verify and help with this.
Do any of my herbs or supplements contradict medications?
Supplements, herbs, and food can boost the effectiveness of medication and treatments, or cause complications. Similarly, medications can offset the effectiveness of your supplements. Discuss with your provider to get the best results from both.
Would I benefit from a different approach to wellness?
Your care provider may also discuss alternative treatments that complement their care. Massage, physical therapy, and counseling can be prescribed for pain or stress. You can also ask if acupuncture, a chiropractor, or an osteopathic doctor could be an avenue for additional healing.
Throughout your visit, note additional questions as they come to mind. (A notepad or note taking app is handy.) You’ll know to request a follow-up if you run out of time and still have questions. Your care provider may offer to answer them through an online patient portal.
Remember, if you don’t feel heard or matched to your care provider, it’s okay to find another one. Likewise, if a discussed treatment plan doesn’t seem right to you, get a second opinion.
In a recent Ted Talk, a surgeon explains how it helps you and your care provider when you ask, “Is this necessary?” when discussing treatments, medications, and procedures. You are in control of your healthcare and partnerships.
Wishing you ultimate health and the best annual check-up ever!