Beth Battaglino Cahill: Hi! I am Beth Battaglino Cahill, Executive Director of HealthyWomen. As an educated healthcare consumer, you should feel like a partner in your medical care. Learn all you can. Ask questions, speak up, build the partnership with your heathcare team. How do you do that? First, when you select your doctor, look for a professional who is committed to a healthy lifestyle, and is willing to take the time to sit down and discuss you medical management.
Next, get in the habit of writing down your health questions. When you think of them, keep them in a notebook or in a folder with your family medical history, and take it with you to every visit. Never leave a medical appointment confused about a health issue. Here are some suggestions for questions to get you started. Feel free to tweak these and add your own personal ones. How can I improve my diet and our exercise program to have a healthier life style? And don't forget to ask your healthcare professional for details. For example, should you increase your exercise? If so, what activities are best for your age? You should also ask about times for regular checkups, and what screening tests are recommended for women of your age. Ask what you can do to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Also, there are a wide variety of contraception methods available. Ask your doctor or nurse what methods would best fit your age and lifestyle.
Another issue that can cause a wide variety of physical and mental health issues is stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious with the demands in your life, ask your doctor what steps you can take to reduce stress? Many women also are concerned about specific health conditions like breast cancer and osteoporosis. For those topics ask how do I do a monthly breast self-exam? When should I schedule a mammogram? What can I expect during the screenings? What can I do now to minimize my risk of osteoporosis? And some women are struggling with issues like smoking and substance abuse. If you are one of those women, ask your healthcare professional for recommendations on treatment programs. For all of us when a healthcare professional recommends a certain test or treatment, make sure you understand what it is designed to do and why it is being recommended? Ask questions like what type of side-effects are associated with this test or treatment? Are there other treatments or options? What do I need to do to prepare for this test? Will insurance pay for the test or treatment? Whom should I call to find out test results and when? And for any test you do have, make sure to ask for and get a complete report on the results. Don't fall into the no-news-is-good-news-trap, as medical records can be misplaced or not reported. Be sure to follow up. If you are in midlife, you may be experiencing changes from aging that requires some additional questions like, is depression a normal part of aging? What treatments are available? Are there natural ways to beat the blues? I sometimes leak urine when sneezing or coughing, is that normal? What can I do to control this problem? How do I know the difference between the normal aches and pains and arthritis? Can it be prevented? And as you start for menopause, ask your doctor for input on questions like, should I take hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, irritability or vaginal dryness? What other treatments are available? Should I increase my daily intake of calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis after menopause? What physical and mental changes can I expect during this time? Having an open and ongoing conversation with your healthcare provider can ensure a healthier and happier you.