You’ve finally wrestled your way onto your doctor’s calendar for six full minutes of his or her undivided attention — now what? Since so many of us sashay out of our physician’s office without answers to our most nagging concerns, AOL Health suggests that you show up with an actual list — starting with a few important questions that patients often forget to pose. The straight-talking Marie Savard, M.D., author of “Ask Dr. Marie,” gave us the list of seven questions that she most wishes her patients would ask her.
Question No. 1: Can I bring my health buddy (spouse, partner, loved one) into the office or exam room with me?
You’re entitled to bring a second set of eyes and ears with you into a doctor’s office. Studies have shown that 50 percent of the information that a doctor tells a patient in a visit is lost the moment the patient walks out the door. The No.1 complaint among patients is that they forget to ask the one important question. When you bring someone with you, that person can take notes for you, give you confidence and courage, speak up when you don’t and be your ally.
Question No. 2: How do I get a copy of my medical records and test results?
People absolutely need to manage their own health information so they can make it available to every future doctor or pharmacist. When you go in for an office visit, hand your doctor a self-addressed, stamped envelope and request that your test results be mailed to you. Unless it’s critical to your health to have copies of your entire medical record — and, in some cases, it is — you can simply start today by asking for copies of your current tests. Or, while you’re still in the office reviewing your test results, you can ask the doctor to give you a copy before the end of your visit. Make sure you get a copy of the original report — not some scribble-scrabble note that says, “Your tests are all fine.” That’s useless for a future health-care provider who needs to review your actual results.
Question No. 3: Given my unique family history and age, what diagnostic and preventive tests do I need — and what steps can I take to avoid the chronic illness I’m at risk for?
It’s important for you to take responsibility for your health by letting your doctor know your family history — and then inquiring about how that history corresponds to the tests you need. If a woman, for instance, has a family history of premature heart disease — meaning that other women in her family have had heart disease as early as age 65 — that’s significant information that a patient must tell her doctor. Women with a family history of heart disease may need blood tests, chest X-rays, electrocardiograms or heart biopsies earlier than a woman who has a normal level of risk for heart disease. When it comes to testing as a way to prevent illness, it’s about more than just cancer. Test results can also assist in the prevention of stroke and diabetes. Also, there are many steps you can take to prevent certain chronic conditions. If you’re at risk for diabetes, you can reduce that risk by losing two inches from your waistline (a woman’s waist should measure 35 inches or less, and a man’s waist should be 40 inches or less); changing your diet and incorporating exercise. If you’re at risk for breast cancer, you can get rid of alcohol.
Question No. 4: These are the over-the-counter and prescription drugs I’m taking. Do you see any issues with the medications I’m mixing — and what should I eliminate?
People are often taking numerous medications, and every day, we’re seeing news of how certain vitamins and drugs don’t mix very well. Studies have shown that doctors often have no awareness of the over-the-counter drugs or vitamins their patients are taking. Ask your doctor: Which of the medications I’m already taking are potentially risky, given the other medications I’m on? The goal should be to minimize the number of medications you’re taking — and you can move toward that goal. Less is more.
Question No. 5: What is the target goal for the treatment of my condition? How do I know if the drug I’m taking is working, and under what condition can I stop taking it?
It’s critical to know what you’re trying to achieve, for instance, if you’re on a cholesterol pill. When people are asked, “Why are you taking this statin?”, they often say, “I don’t know. Because my doctor said so.” Everyone has a different target — it’s all individualized. If you’re a diabetic, your cholesterol or blood pressure target might be different from someone who doesn’t have diabetes. That’s why it’s so important to talk with your doctor about what he or she sees as the desired result and timeline of your treatment plan.
Since heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in America, this is a critical discussion to have with your doctor. First, you need to know that you’re vulnerable, even if you’re young. Second, know the warning signs of a heart attack, which can be anything from crushing chest pains or shortness of breath to fatigue or simply a feeling that something just isn’t quite right with your health. Warning signs of a stroke can include the sudden onset of the worst headache of your life, confusion, memory changes, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, dizziness and numbness or weakness on one side of the body.
Question No. 7: How can I prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes can be avoided or managed entirely through lifestyle changes — meaning you need to exercise and eat healthfully and lose inches from your waist. All diabetes prevention trials have shown that reducing your waist size by just two inches through diet and exercise will reduce your chances of getting diabetes by 50 to 70 percent. In those trials, lifestyle changes trumped medication in preventing diabetes. You particularly need to manage your waist size as you age, because studies have shown that it’s not your butt fat that brings on diabetes.
Article by Michelle Burford/AOL/Health