Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healthy Habits in 2013: Habit #3: Get a Check Up

I'm not really sure this is a habit, unless you count it as a yearly habit, but it's still very, very important.

Habit #3: Get a Check Up


So many times in today's busy world as women we tend to let our own needs fall to the bottom of the list.  This includes things like getting a yearly check up with our family practice doctor or women's health provider.  

I know, I've been there, done that!  

We don't go for a variety of reasons: full schedule and can't find a convenient time to go, want to lose those last 5 or 10 or 20 lbs (or more) before we go, want to break that bad habit (whatever it is!) first, we forget, or we're afraid, or whatever.  For whatever reason we just don't make the time and schedule that appointment.

In reality, this is our first line of defense against the really big stuff.  It gives both us and the medical community a chance to check to make sure everything is all right and to catch things before they get really out of hand.  It gives us a chance to establish a baseline for when thing don't feel right later on.  And it gives us a chance to get to know our provider and for our provider to get to know us.

Here are some things that I've found helpful that might help you too in making this an easier and more enjoyable experience:

* Schedule first-thing-in-the-morning.  The provider hasn't had time to get behind schedule yet and we're usually relatively fresh - unless you're really not a morning person.  We also haven't had a chance to gain water weight throughout the day, so the scale might read a hair lower.  And if we need to fast for labs, we don't have to fast all day long!

* Schedule the appointment you need - time wise that is.  Some clinics and providers schedule slots as short as 10 minutes for routine appointments. Yikes. That barely leaves time to do the basics much less ask questions, etc.  Ask how long each appointment is and if it's too short, ask to book a double slot.  This allows both you and provider time to ask questions, explore options and really have an actual appointment rather than a rushed short meeting.  In reality 20 minutes is usually enough for an exam to be done and follow-ups ordered or discussed as necessary.  If you're going to need a full physical with all the works, 30 minutes might be needed - it will depend on your provider.  If you're unsure, ask how long they schedule and then ask if it includes extra time to ask questions.  Most clinics would rather have you schedule extra time than have everyone else in the day run late because you wanted to ask a question!

* Find childcare if you need it.  Unless you have a nursing infant, it's a good idea to leave little ones (or bitter ones!) at home or with someone else you trust.  Seriously, we all know how hard it is to keep up a fully coherent, adult conversation and keep our children out of the stuff they shouldn't be into (ask me how I know!). Find someone to swap with, a lady at church who'd love to spend an hour or so with children, a teenager or adult you can pay a few dollars to watch your children, or even a drop-in childcare center.  Trust me, being able to have a full conversation with both of you actively engaged in the conversation is going to be a good help to your appointment.  And you'll get done quicker!  And a couple hours each year is sure worth the hassle of finding someone.

* Find a provider you feel comfortable with. Or at least the one you feel least uncomfortable with.  Having a provider that you can talk with and have some report with is essential to you getting the health care you need.  If you have an option between providers, that may mean trying several before finding the right fit.  If you don't have options, be more open about what you need. Often providers, especially where options are limited, are rushed and stressed and may not even realize they aren't given you what you need as a patient.  They may not realize they aren't listening, or are falling back on things you've already tried because they see so many people they have a hard time remembering who's who.  Be vocal and keep looking until you find your fit.

* See the same provider every time.  Many clinics are bowing to the want that patients have to get in immediately and schedule people with the first available provider.  If you have something that absolutely shouldn't wait - by all means go!  Otherwise, see the same provider every time.  They know you - yes, even if they only see you once a year.  And can often tell that something is wrong or know what does and doesn't work for you personally.  If nothing else, you know how they work and feel comfortable with them.  

* Spill the beans.  Let's just admit it - we're afraid our provider is going to think we're an idiot for something we have done - how much junk food we eat, how little we exercise, that we smoked or drank or whatever at some point (or currently).  Fess up!  Seriously.  Unless they're right out of medical school, they've probably heard it all before.  Really.  And it means your treatment will probably be more effective and less of a hassle than if you didn't tell the truth or padded the truth a bit.

* Ask at the beginning.  Very often any concerns people have are left until the last minute - "Oh, by the way...."   Don't do that!  If you come in with a concern - you've been more tired than usual lately, running to the bathroom too often, have headaches, have a funny lump or spot somewhere, or a rash or acid reflux, or whatever - ask it right away. In fact, tell the nurse or aid that takes your blood pressure, etc. at the beginning of the appointment.  That way you have it out in the open right away, you're more likely to get your answer and the nurse or aid can make sure the provider has something on your mind before they walk into the room.

  * If something is wrong, push until you get an answer.  Diagnoses can take a lot of time.  Often more time than we think they should.  If you just know in your gut something isn't right or you don't feel well and can't put a finger on why, ask and ask and ask again.  Many things have similar symptoms and if the "obvious" doesn't help, then ask for something else.  Sometimes that "obvious" has to be ruled out before other options can be explored. Don't give up!  I spent 2 years knowing in the core of my being that something was wrong before I got diagnosed with both of my chronic illnesses (that's 4 years total being really sick with no answers, folks). In the case of one of those, a few more months would have been fatal. I'm glad I stuck with it! Ask. Push.  Be an advocate for yourself.  You know your body better than anyone else. And believe me, sometimes fixes are simple.  And having a name for what ails you is almost always better than not!

What other suggestions do you have for getting that check up and making it run smoother?  I'd love to hear!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or work in any capacity for a medical provider nor do I have formal medical training. This information is not intended to be taken as formal medical advice. It is simply what works for me and what has helped make getting that recommended yearly checkup easier for me.  Please consult with a medical professional to determine what works best for your personal needs! Thanks.

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Lea