Beth Battaglino Cahill: Hi! I am Beth Battaglino Cahill, Executive Director of HealthyWomen. As an educated health care consumer, you should feel like a partner in your medical care. Learn all you can. Ask questions, speak up, build a partnership with your health care 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 your 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. You are free to tweak these and add your own personal ones. How can I improve my diet and/or exercise program to have a healthier lifestyle? And don't forget to ask your health care 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 check-ups and what screening tests are recommended for women at 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're 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're one of those women, ask your health care professional for recommendations on treatment programs. For all of us, when a health care professional recommends a certain task or treatment, make sure you understand what it is designed to do and why it has been 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 tests 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. Having an open and ongoing conversation with your health care provider can ensure a healthier and happier you.