A doctor’s appointment can be stressful. We’ve all left the doctor and immediately remembered that we forgot to ask a specific question. Or we’ve been in the appointment and suddenly gotten stage fright. It happens to the best of us. But knowledge is power! So we’ve created a short list of valuable conversation starters for you to use the next time you see your physician.
THF PRO TIP: Bring this list of questions with you to the doctor along with any additional specific questions that apply to your health.
1. How does my family history impact my personal health?
Understanding your family history is a great way to begin your health journey. Inform your doctor of any history of family diseases as this may incline them to screen you for those specific conditions more often. If you don’t have access to your family history, it’s okay! Communicate any information that you do know to your doctor and they can help you sift through it and maybe even tell you where else to look! Use My Family Health Portrait from the Surgeon General to start documenting your family health history!
2. How are my vital signs?
Vital signs include your heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and your temperature. If you are seeing the doctor for a check-up, they will likely only check your pulse and blood pressure. If your doctor does not mention anything to you after checking your vitals, it probably means that your signs look healthy, but it’s always a good idea to have open and clear communication with your physician.
THF PRO TIP: You may even want to ask your doctor to check your blood pressure at the end of your appointment in addition to the beginning. Many people have a higher blood pressure reading at the beginning of an appointment due to the stress of a doctor’s appointment. This is called white coat hypertension.
3. I do my best to live a healthy lifestyle. Can I tell you about a typical day of mine to see if there are any ways I can be more proactive?
Your life is intricate and busy. Since wellness is multi-faceted, it can be easy to miss something. Walk your doctor through your daily routine and be honest about it! Discuss your eating habits, how much water you drink, how often you work out, your sex life, how much you sleep, what your levels of stress and anxiety are like, how much alcohol you consume, your relaxation routine, whether or not you smoke or use drugs, etc. It is all vital information that can impact your health greatly.
4. Do I need any additional testing? Can you explain the tests to me and what they mean?
Medical jargon can be both confusing and overwhelming. If your doctor wants you to get additional testing done, don’t be afraid to ask why they feel it is important and what the results of the tests could mean.
THF PRO TIP: This Medical Dictionary of Health Terms from Harvard Medical School is a great reference to keep on hand.
5. Is there anything specific I need to know about the medications that I’m taking?
If your physician recommends that you take certain medications, don’t forget to ask some follow-up questions! What is the medication treating? Are there any side effects? How will I know it’s working? Is there anything I should avoid while taking this medication?
For example: Grapefruit juice affects how many drugs are metabolized and can alter the amount of drug in your body. Many of these are drugs prescribed to heart patients!
6. Should I schedule a follow-up appointment?
This question is especially helpful if you and your doctor discover that there are ways that you can improve your lifestyle. Scheduling a follow-up appointment can keep you accountable and provide you with clear proof as to how your health has fluctuated after implementing changes. If your doctor doesn’t feel like a follow-up appointment is necessary, don’t leave the office without at least scheduling your next check-up. This way, you eliminate the chance of missing it!
THF PRO TIP: When you are talking to your doctor, ask if you can record the conversation as a voice memo in your phone! That way, you don’t have to worry about taking notes while you are in the appointment and you can revisit the conversation anytime you want!
The Cleveland Clinic:
Harvard Health Publishing:
The Mayo Clinic:
The Surgeon General: