What should I ask my doctor during a checkup?

Chances are, if you have babies or young children, you’ve taken them to their pediatrician or family physician for wellness checks. But what have you done for yourself lately?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends you bring up issues such as dietary habits, tobacco or illicit substance use, depression and other symptoms during your annual checkup. Here are some general issues you may want to discuss with your physician to ensure optimal health:

Women

Breast self-exams: If you aren’t doing self-exams, ask your doctor for instructions on when and how to do them and request a chart, if available.

Mammogram: Starting at age 40 – earlier if you have a family history – discuss whether you need a baseline mammogram. Starting at age 50, get a mammogram every two years. 

Pap smear: Get screened for cervical cancer every three years.

Men

Prostate screening: If there is a history of prostate cancer in your family, start screenings around age 40.

Men and women

Diabetes screening: Those with blood pressure higher than 135/80 or who take blood pressure medications should be screened annually.

Heart screening: Each visit to the doctor likely includes a blood pressure test. But there may be additional screenings you require, depending on your age and your family’s heart history.

Immunizations: Ask about vaccinations annually for influenza; every five years for pneumonia; and every 10 years for tetanus and diphtheria. Adults who don’t believe they’ve had the chicken pox also may want to discuss possible vaccination against this childhood disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend that adults discuss with their doctors a possible need for vaccination against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Tests: If any are ordered, ask exactly what the doctor is looking for and when the results can be expected.

Medications: If your doctor prescribes any medications, ask whether he or she can supply samples and whether generic brands are available to keep down costs. Ask about side effects and possible interactions with any other medications, including vitamins or health supplements, you may be taking.

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4 things to consider before your next checkup

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Meet with your healthcare provider regularly to get checkups. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Sparks)
Meet with your healthcare provider regularly to get checkups. (Photo courtesy of Courtney Sparks)

Help your health provider help you make the right choices by reviewing these four items prior to an annual physical exam.

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