1. “Do I Need to Continue All of My Medications?”
In the vast majority of cases, your doctor or pharmacist will tell you for how long you have to continue a certain medication, but in the case with some medications, it's best to double-check with your doctor if you need to extend your prescription or continue taking them, especially when it comes to symptomatic relief medications, such as some painkillers.
On a slightly different note, if you want to ask to discontinue a medication because the side effects are too uncomfortable, don't hesitate to ask whether you have any other options. Certain side effects can be dangerous, so be open in your feedback regarding your reaction to any and all medications.
2. “Does My Family's Health History Increase My Risks?”
Hereditary health issues are widespread, which is why it is common practice in medical offices to have a record of family health issues in your personnel file. Unfortunately, this list is rarely updated. If any of your family members suffered from a medical condition during the past year, it's okay to ask your doctor if this condition could endanger your health as well.
This way, your doctor and you will be able to plan any necessary prevention methods or additional screenings for this specific condition. Even if this will not be necessary, you will rest assured that your health is not in danger.
3. “Could I Get Lab Work Done?”
Many people are afraid to ask for yearly lab work, but you shouldn't be, as annual blood tests and other lab work may reveal minute, often asymptomatic imbalances and catch conditions early on. This is very important, as treating any condition in its beginning stages is much easier than when it's full-blown. Also, don't forget to ask about the vaccination schedule you may require, as even adults need to renew their vaccinations from time to time.
4. “What Should I Know About This Medication (Treatment)?”
Obviously, this isn't a question to ask once a year, but rather when you get prescribed any new treatment or medication. First of all, you should understand why you're taking this new medication and what it does. You have to understand why you need to take a specific medication, how often you need to take it, for how long you have to continue the treatment, and last, but not least, the side effects.
When it comes to side effects, it's important to know what to expect from the medication and to look out for possibly dangerous effects you'd have to notify your doctor of. Your pharmacist can also help you with some, but not all of these queries.
5. “Do You Recommend Any Annual Screenings For Me?”
Apart from doing certain blood tests every year, most people are also recommended to undergo certain screenings. The screenings you ought to go through will depend on your sex, age, and even things like your family's health history or your occupation.
Common screenings include:
- Mammogram for women (yearly in 45-55 years, once in two years after 55)
- Yearly prostate exam for men over the age of 55
- Annual colonoscopy for everyone in the age range of 50-75
- Annual thyroid function assessment, especially in women.
Needless to say, these are just a few examples of common screenings, and the screening tests you may or may not require will vary from person to person, so asking your doctor which ones are right for you is very important.
6. “Do I Need to Avoid or Eat More of Certain Foods?”
Nutrition and health go hand in hand, and you'd be surprised to know how much the foods you eat influence your body chemistry. For example, antidepressants can become less effective if you eat foods like aged cheeses or drink grapefruit juice.
Needless to say, certain health conditions, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, digestive issues, and many others, likewise restrict your dietary choices. Finally, certain nutrient deficiencies will likely require you to eat more of certain foods. As you can see, talking to your doctor about food is more important than you'd expect.
7. “Is My Digestion Normal?”
Toilet habits are clearly not a good topic for dinner conversations, but discussing your bowel movements and digestion, including your food intolerances, with your doctor is a smart thing to do. This is especially true in older adults, whose digestion and metabolism tends to slow down with age and may require certain dietary changes or medications to address the issue.
Preventing and eliminating digestive issues is extremely important, as these can snowball into more serious issues with time. Apart from that, digestive problems can be important symptoms of seemingly unrelated underlying health issues, so it's best NOT to avoid this subject, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
8. “How Is My Bloodwork?”
Doing yearly blood tests is an extremely beneficial habit, as even the most general test will be able to access several key aspects of your health, such as your LDL cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, as well as vitamin and mineral levels.
But don't just do the tests, make sure to ask your doctor about the aspects of the blood test that concern you and request assistance in improving the areas of concern, if those exist. Your doctor will be able to let you know what life adjustments and/or treatments to seek in order to improve your health.
9. “Do You Recommend to See a Specialist?”
Your family doctor or primary care physician is really good at diagnosing general issues, but when it comes to specific, fine-tuned conditions, they may require some extra help from a specialist. After all, specialized doctors, such as dermatologists and gastroenterologists exist for good reason.
Apart from that, it's sometimes worth asking for a second opinion from a specialist, since their conclusion may (or may not) differ from those of your primary care doctor, which can make a huge difference in certain cases.
10. “Could I Get My Moles Checked?”
Contrary to popular belief, not only light-haired and light-skinned individuals need to go through a mole examination on a yearly basis, everyone needs to do so. As a matter of fact, dark-skinned people are more likely to suffer from skin cancer in more advanced stages than light-skinned people.
One in five people develop skin cancer by 70 years of age in the US alone, so doing those annual mole examinations is really important. If your primary physician doesn't conduct these examinations, you can ask for a referral to a dermatologist.
11. “Are My Bones Healthy?”
Bone and muscle health becomes a priority once you hit your 50's, especially in women, as menopause can dramatically weaken the bones and increase one's risk of bone fractures. You can also talk to your doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplementation and exercises to prevent and decrease the development of osteoporosis.
You can also talk to your doctor about your lean muscle mass and ways to improve it, as maintaining this can really prevent and help you deal with several health issues, such as spine problems and back pain.
12. “Should I Be Avoiding Certain Activities?”
We often forget to consider the lifestyle restrictions that go with a specific treatment or condition, and that's a shame, since these changes may be crucial for your recovery and overall wellbeing. For example, certain medications, such as antibiotics and antidepressants, can make you more sensitive to sunlight and require you to stay away from the sun and reapply sunscreen several times a day to prevent adverse skin reactions, and most importantly - skin cancer.
Some conditions, such as sciatica and even the flu require you to rest for a few days, whereas others demand dietary changes or restrictions in clothing. For these reasons, it's key to ask your doctor not only what you can do, but also what you should avoid during your recovery.
13. “How Can I Maintain My Brain Health?”
As we age, our memory and attention span starts to decrease, and it's just a normal part of aging. This is, in part, due to certain areas in our brain shrinking with age, a process that can be slowed down considerably by simply training your brain. By 'training' we mean different mental exercises, such as puzzles, reading, and even learning a new skill, such as playing a musical instrument or painting.
It's also important to discuss any sudden changes in your mental faculties, as well as your psychological wellbeing with your doctor because this may be an early sign of neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders respectfully. Your doctor will also be able to help you with certain preventative methods to help keep your brain strong.
14. “When Should I See You Again?”
Yearly appointments are a good start, but if you're working towards a specific goal or addressing an issue, such as losing weight or lowering your LDL cholesterol levels, you may benefit from more regular visits. Needless to say, regular visits are also a must for people who are undergoing treatment for a more serious condition.
15. “Is there anything I can do in-between appointments to improve my health or condition?”
Self-care and self-improvement are always beneficial, and sometimes, even necessary for reaching the health goal you desire. Getting rid of harmful habits, such as smoking and eating junk food, or leading a more active lifestyle and exercising may be the last piece of the puzzle that will get you back in top shape, or help you maintain that shape for years and years on end.