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Top 10 questions you should be asking your doctor during your annual wellness exam

Annual wellness visits are important for our health, especially as we age. Being proactive about your health care can literally save your life. In fact, getting your vitals taken, and possibly some blood work, can help detect early warning signs for potentially serious issues. Catching these indicators early and starting preventive treatment can make all the difference.

To help you get the most out of your appointment, here are the top 10 questions to bring up during your time in the exam room.

1. Do I still need my medications?

Sometimes, the medications you’re taking may no longer be needed. Many medications treat symptoms only, and over time those symptoms can go away or alter on their own, independent of the medicine itself.

2. Does my family’s health put me at risk?

Doctors know to ask about your family’s past illnesses during a first exam, but it’s likely that your family history has changed slightly since you’ve last seen your doctor. Update your doctor on recent health events concerning relatives, and ask if you are at risk for anything based on the new information.

3. Are my bowel movements normal?

This can be an embarrassing question, but if you are having what you think are strange or irregular bowel movements, especially if they are painful or contain blood, you should raise the question.

4. Am I getting enough sleep?

The amount of sleep each person needs varies, but the general consensus is that it should be about 6-9 hours per night. If you have been feeling like you may not be getting enough sleep, ask your doctor how that might be affecting you and if they need to do any additional tests regarding your sleeping patterns or the effects of your lack of sleep.

5. How is my blood pressure?

Sometimes, if your blood pressure isn’t alarmingly high or low, the doctor won’t tell you the exact number unless you ask. However, it can never hurt to get the exact number if you are worried about tracking it due to your family history or your own medical history.

6. Is this normal?

Bring up anything that you may be worried about. Some issues can be sensitive, such as talking about your libido, amount of discharge, or menopausal issues, but your doctor is the person who will be able to help you address them properly.

7. Would you recommend any additional annual screenings?

As we all get older, it’s important to be proactive about our health. You may want to ask your doctor if he or she thinks that you should start any annual screenings, like a mammogram or colonoscopy, a bit sooner based on your family and medical history.

8. How is my weight?

Weight can be a very touchy subject, but it can affect your health in very serious ways. It’s important to have a non-judgmental discussion with your doctor if you are pushing the boundaries one way or another, and to talk about how you can get to the healthiest version of yourself.

9. What do I need to do between now and my next visit?

Ultimately, your health is in your hands. You and your doctor should take the time to talk about what kinds of things you need to be doing in your daily life in order to stay healthy — from dietary choices to lifestyle decisions.

10. What important questions haven’t I asked?

Doctors are people, too, and they might be a bit forgetful. Sometimes they can forget to bring up a topic of discussion, and if you ask them if there is anything that you’ve missed, that little reminder won’t hurt.

Cynthia Alexander, MD, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Internal Medicine in Bellefonte.