The doctor is in.
Alright, ladies, you’re in the hot seat. When’s the last time you had a “yearly check-up”? A year, two years, three years? Maybe even longer? We get it; going to the doctor isn’t an ideal way to spend a day, but it is crucial.
The second Monday in May is National Women’s Checkup Day, part of National Women’s Health Week. It was created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a way to encourage women to take control of their health. Regular health checkups give us the opportunity to catch problems before they become serious or even fatal.
Talking with your doctor about your medical history, risk factors, and any symptoms you might be feeling can go a long way in keeping stress levels low and your entire body healthy. Additionally, your doctor can conduct screenings and tests that can be used for baseline comparisons down the road.
Your yearly checkup.
As women age, their health needs change. What was a priority in a woman’s 20s might not necessarily be as important in her 40s. Yearly checkups are vital to maintaining your health at every age. Visits should include discussions of your health habits, plans for your future as it pertains to your health, and setting health goals. During these visits, the thing to remember is this is your time to put all your concerns out on the table.
Every woman’s health journey is unique and requires a unique plan. The doctor is there to help you, so don’t hesitate to come armed with any questions you might have. We’ve put together some common queries to get you started.
5 Questions to ask your doctor at your yearly check-up.
01. Is this normal?
Your yearly check-up is a perfect opportunity to determine if those new symptoms you are experiencing are something you should be concerned about or just a part of your age or lifestyle. Whether it’s new anxieties creeping in, a mysterious new mole, or a change in your sleeping habits, this is your chance to get answers.
Your doctor will likely perform an exam to measure basic vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight, etc. They will then ask additional questions to discover what factors might influence your health, such as your medical history, family medical history, level of stress, habits, lifestyle, and drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. Honesty is critical when answering the above questions. Your answers will help in determining if the health issue is something to worry about or not. Your doctor might also suggest additional screenings and tests. This isn’t necessarily something to be concerned about, just your physician doing their due diligence.
02. Do I need any immunizations?
Some vaccines, like tetanus, require boosters, while others are dependent on circumstance. For example, it is recommended that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine, which offers protection against pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria, with each pregnancy. Another example of a circumstance-based vaccine is travel. Some destinations will require specific vaccinations before allowing you to enter the country.
- Just as children should get vaccines at certain age intervals, there are also vaccines for adults. A younger woman in her late teens or early twenties might ask about the HPV vaccine, while older women should consider getting the shingles and pneumococcal vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine can also be given to patients with specific autoimmune or chronic disorders. This is why it’s vital to share all your medical history with your doctor.
- Also, don’t forget your flu shot! Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a yearly flu shot.
03. Are my prescriptions still ok?
We accumulate a lot of prescriptions in our lives, and sometimes it’s easy to lose track. Your check-up is your chance to discuss any and all medications you’re taking. Are you experiencing any side effects? Do you feel the medicine is working? Would it be beneficial to lower or raise the dosage? Talk to your doctor about any lifestyle changes that might be affecting the medication or your need to continue taking it. For example, if you’re planning on becoming pregnant, you might need to stop certain medications.
If you take prescriptions to control blood pressure or cholesterol and you’ve made lifestyle adjustments–like increased exercise, weight loss, or a healthier diet–you might be able to control the issues without the medication. Never make adjustments or stop taking your prescriptions without speaking with your doctor first. Many drugs require weaning, and stopping abruptly can put you at risk.
04. How can I stay healthy in the future?
Your check-up visit is a great time to set new and attainable health goals. Ask your provider if they feel you are at risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc. If so, discuss how your current lifestyle habits influence those risks and if there are any positive changes you can make to prevent the disease. Bring up any fitness goals you might have and ask if they recommend a specific exercise level or diet based on your medical history.
05. When should I schedule another appointment?
Generally speaking, the doctor will suggest you come back in a year, but depending on the outcome of screens and tests, they might recommend a follow-up sooner. They might also refer you to another physician who specializes in any issues that might have been found. If you disagree with their decision, whatever it might be, don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. Your health journey is just that: yours, and you should have confidence in those providing you with care.
Make the appointment.
We here at Neighbors Emergency Center hope that these five questions can provide you with the tools and confidence to start a productive conversation about your health.
In addition to scheduling a check-up with your primary care physician, we also recommend planning a well-woman visit. A well-woman visit focuses on elements of your reproductive health. Usually, this exam will include a Pap smear, pelvic examination, and breast examination. However, depending on your health, other procedures might be recommended.
Life is hectic, and taking the time for an annual checkup might not be at the top of your “fun things-to-do list,” but it is a necessary tool in maintaining your health. A little time today could save your life tomorrow.