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Tips for Your Next Physical

A new year means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it's a time to take stock of your general health by getting a medical check-up. You may be acting on a New Year's resolution to take better care of yourself, or maybe your new insurance just kicked in or your health savings account has been replenished. Whatever the reason, these tips from the US Department of Health & Human Services can help you get ready for your appointment, especially if you haven't been to the doctor in a while.

Bring to your appointment

  • A list of questions you want to ask
  • Your health history, including current conditions and past surgeries or illnesses
  • Your family's health history, including the health conditions of your parents, brothers, and sisters
  • All your current medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and supplements
  • A friend or family member who can help you listen and understand, if you think it will be helpful

During your appointment

  • Go over your list of questions with your doctor, starting with the most important ones.
  • Listen carefully to the answers and take notes.
  • Explain your symptoms, health history, and any problems you have had with medicines you have taken in the past.
  • Ask follow-up questions during your visit. For example, if you are prescribed medicine, ask about the possible side effects. If a test is ordered, ask what it's for and what the results will tell you. If a specific treatment is recommended, ask if there are any other options to treat your condition and what you might expect from each.
  • Tell your doctor if you have concerns about being able to follow your treatment plan.

After your appointment

  • Follow your doctor's instructions to fill prescriptions or make appointments for tests, lab work, or follow-up visits.
  • Call your doctor if you are unclear about any instructions or if you think of more questions.
  • Call your doctor if you have side effects from your medications; if your symptoms get worse; or if you start taking any new medications, including prescriptions from another doctor, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements.
  • Call your doctor to get the results of any tests you've had or to ask about test results you don't understand.

Hopefully you'll leave the office with a clean bill of health. However, if you ever find yourself facing a diagnosis of cancer or another serious disease, it's important you take the time to talk with your doctor, ask questions, and get the answers you need, so you can make informed choices about your care.


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