Scheduling and attending health-related appointments, especially if you’re a parent and coordinating for your children, can sometimes feel like a full-time job. If you can’t remember the last time you had your teeth cleaned or struggle to remember the name of your primary care physician, it’s time to make some changes.
Taking charge of your health and making time for regular preventative appointments is essential to protect your well-being. Showing up to appointments as a knowledgeable, informed consumer of healthcare can allow you to take more control over your health.
The same habits that have kept us healthy since the dawn of time still work today: eat fruits and vegetables, exercise daily, sleep eight hours a night, avoid smoking, take your vitamins, get an annual physical exam, follow doctor’s orders and indulge a little. The CDC estimates that by adhering to these habits, 30% of heart disease-related deaths, 15% of cancer-related deaths and 28% of stroke-related deaths could be prevented each year.
In my new book, 52 Small Changes for the Family, we devote an entire week to taking charge of your health. Not only does this include setting up and going to doctor appointments, but it also means becoming knowledgeable and informed about what you’re discussing at each appointment, and the screenings you need to undergo as you age.
Start today. These 5 simple actions will put you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health.
- Choose a primary care doctor and schedule annual appointment reminders: If you don’t have a PCP, now’s the time to get one. Most insurance companies require you have one for referrals to specialists, and they’re a great starting point for any health issues or questions you have. Ask for personal referrals from friends or family, and switch if you’re not comfortable with with your current doctor. Set up annual appointment reminders, and think about choosing a day each year to schedule all your regular medical appointments. Or, place a reminder in your calendar to call for the appointment.
- Opt into preventative Screenings… & understand the numbers: Work with your doctor to figure out the appropriate screenings for your age and health history and be sure these are done regularly. Also do your research around your results so you understand the numbers you’re seeing and are informed enough to raise any concerns with your physician. While your results may be “normal,” understanding where they fall on the range is important to understand any if lifestyle changes may be required to avoid health issues in the future.
- Make a dentist appointment: Routine dental exams can reveal many conditions, from vitamin deficiencies to undiagnosed diabetes. Between visits, be sure to brush and floss daily, avoid sugary foods and do not smoke or use tobacco products.
- Re-evaluate your medication: Many of us take a prescription or medication prescribed by our doctor without thinking much about it. Spend some time reading the fine print on any medications your family regularly takes. Write down any questions you have. Understanding the side effects and uses of medication can give you a better overall understanding of your health and any side effects that may come up in the future. Further, you’ll have the information needed to ask appropriate questions of your doctor.
- Start a running list of questions: Many of us have valuable time with our doctor or specialist at the end of the appointment. Make good use of this time by keeping a running list of questions to ask your doctor next time you see him or her. This is a great exercise for you, as well as for your kids, so nothing is forgotten in between visits. Bring the written list to your appointment to be sure all your concerns are covered.
If you’d like more ideas for taking charge of your health, check out my new book, 52 Small Changes for the Family. Week 45 focuses on the topic.