Visits to primary care providers are often for a specific reason, rather than a general checkup. No matter the reason for your next visit though, patients should come prepared with some general questions to benefit overall health.
Amy Eisenberg, a nurse practitioner at Highland Medical, P.C., Pearl River Internal Medicine, recommends asking the following questions to gain a more complete understanding of your health:
Do I need any cancer screening tests?
“I always tell my patients that it’s much better to prevent a disease than to address it once it’s there," said Eisenberg. "It’s also better to detect disease as early as possible to get a jump start on successful treatment.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend screening for breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancer, which can be done through mammograms, Pap tests, colonoscopy and low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) to catch cancers early, when they're more treatable.
“In terms of whether you should be screened for prostate cancer, you should discuss the risks and potential benefits with your provider," said Eisenberg. "Some prostate cancers are very slow growing and it is still uncertain whether they are dangerous and if treatment is beneficial. A man’s overall health status should be taken into consideration and men should be given the chance to make an informed decision.”
What should I be doing to keep my heart healthy?
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death and is very preventable. The best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease are to eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and veggies; get enough sleep; get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week; maintain a healthy weight; and do not smoke.
“If you’re at increased risk of heart disease due to your lifestyle or family history, your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels should be monitored regularly,” said Eisenberg. “If lifestyle changes aren’t keeping your levels down enough, your provider may recommend medication.”
Do I really need these supplements?
“Even if vitamin or mineral supplements are natural, it doesn’t mean they’re safe,” Eisenberg said. “Unlike prescription medication, herbal or vitamin supplements aren’t subjected to the Food and Drug Administration’s strict approval process.”
Tell your primary care provider which over-the-counter supplements you are taking, including the dose. “Some herbal medicines can interact with prescription drugs, which is why it’s so important for your provider to know what you’re taking,” Eisenberg said.
Do I really need this antibiotic?
It’s important to avoid taking antibiotics if you don’t really need them. Patients who come to the doctor with cold and flu symptoms often expect to leave with a prescription for antibiotics. However, the drugs don’t work against viruses, which are often the cause of common winter illnesses.
If your doctor does prescribe an antibiotic, ask if you really need it. “Some illnesses, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections or bladder infections, should be treated with antibiotics,” said Eisenberg. “In cases of pneumonia, antibiotics can save lives. But for the common cold and flu, antibiotics aren’t helpful.”
What online resources should I rely on for medical information?
“It’s natural to look up your symptoms online, but before you do that, ask your doctor which websites they recommend—there is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Eisenberg. She tells her patients that websites with .edu, .gov or .org addresses tend to be the most reliable. “Stay clear of forums or websites that are trying to sell you something.”
For more information, visit Highland Medical's website.