Ten Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Dr. Mark Niedfeldt, Serigraph’s on-site primary doctor, advises patients to ask these ten questions when under-going their annual physical:

1.  Does my lifestyle put me at a health risk?

Your lifestyle may be putting you at risk, even if you don’t realize it. Smoking is an obvious example of a lifestyle decision which puts you at high risk of health problems. Do you have a high-stress job that could put you at risk for a stroke or heart attack? Is your diet increasing your risk of disease? These are all things to ask your doctor.

2.  What is my overall risk for heart disease? (Is my blood pressure normal? What about my cholesterol?)

These questions go together toward reviewing your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer in this country. Knowing your risk factors and making changes to these risk factors can go a long way toward improving your lifespan. You should ask your doctor what your blood pressure numbers mean, how often you should have your levels checked, and whether or not you need to lower your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, ask your doctor if you need to take medication to lower it, what foods you should be eating and avoiding, and how much physical activity you should get. Like blood pressure, you should ask if your cholesterol levels are normal and if not, what you need to do as far as diet, exercise, and medication are concerned to lower it.

3.  What are my risk factors for getting cancer?

Family history, lifestyle, and environmental exposure can all contribute to your risk.

4.  What sort of screening do you recommend for me?

This will be variable and based on a number of individual factors such as age, sex, lifestyle, family history, and potential exposure. Screening tests may be done for heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, or other diseases.

5.  What can I do besides medication to improve my health? What can I do to stay healthy?

Changes in your diet, exercise program, and smoking cessation can all make major contributions to improvements in health status. Recent studies suggest that diet and exercise are essential for treating and preventing everything from heart attacks to prostate cancer, yet only one in six doctors discusses how to use nutrition to prevent disease, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers in Colorado found that only 28 percent of doctors mention exercise to their patients.

6.  Do I really need that test?

Some doctors may adhere to a better-safe-than-sorry philosophy, ordering tests just to protect themselves in the event of a lawsuit. Some screening tests have high false-positive rates. Ask questions before agreeing to testing.

7.  What are my treatment options? How effective is each treatment option?

What are the benefits versus risks of each treatment option? If you have a problem which requires treatment, ask your doctor about options. If you are uncomfortable with the options presented, seek a second opinion.

8.  What are the side effects of the medications you’re recommending? Will they interact with any other medications or supplements that I am taking?

If you take medications, or if your doctor recommends a medication, always ask this question. Always tell your physician about every medication you are taking, including the dose (a list is best). This includes over the counter medications and any herbs, supplements or vitamins.

9.  If my symptoms worsen, what should I do on my own? When should I contact you?

If you are being treated for a problem, it is a good idea to know what you can do at home if you worsen or if the condition does not improve and what should spur you to call your doctor.

10.  How often should I come for a checkup? Are there any tests I should have done before my next visit?

This is variable and based on your age, sex, family history and health status. Before you leave your appointment, be sure to know when your doctor would like to see you next and if there are any tests you should have done prior to your next visit. If so, schedule them now, if possible, so nothing gets missed.”

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