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Visiting Your Doctor

Make the most of your Visits: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides tips for making the most of your doctor visits. AHRQ notes that in order for you and your doctor to become partners in improving your healthcare, you should:

  • Give information. Don’t wait to be asked. You know your body better than anyone. Provide your doctor with a complete health history; your doctor is there to help you.
  • Get information. Ask questions to make sure that you understand what your doctor tells you. Write down the information for future reference. If you don’t understand something, ask questions! You could even ask the doctor to draw a picture.
  • Take information home. Ask for written instructions and any brochures the doctor may have.
  • Follow up. If you have questions, call the doctor. If your problems get worse or you have problems with your medicine, call. Follow up to get test results or make additional appointments.

What to Expect During Your Doctor’s Visit

Doctors screen for several common conditions. The types of screenings vary based on your health history and risk for disease. Use My Family Health Portrait to develop your own health history to discuss with your doctor.

Common Screening Tests

  • Weight: You can make sure you are at a healthy weight by calculating your body mass index (BMI). You can find your own BMI using this BMI calculator.
  • Cholesterol: Having high cholesterol is a major, but controllable, risk factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. For more information about cholesterol, visit the American Heart Association.
  • High Blood Pressure: Doctors check your blood pressure to see if it is borderline or high. High blood pressure starts at around 130/80. If your doctor determines that you have high blood pressure, a diet change and/or medicine may be recommended.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Using a colonoscopy and/or a fecal occult blood test, your doctor can examine the lining of your colon for abnormalities that may indicate colon or rectal cancer. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has provided several educational videos on colonoscopy procedures, from preparation through post-exam expectations.
  • Diabetes: Doctors check for diabetes by testing your blood sugar levels. Additional information about diabetes, including tips on living with diabetes, as well as food and fitness tips, can be found at the American Diabetes Association.
  • HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Doctors can test for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis, and herpes. Testing is based on risk factors determined through a discussion with your doctor. The CDC has more information on sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening: If you are between the ages of 65 and 75 and have smoked 100 or more cigarettes during your lifetime, your doctor will check for abnormally large or swollen blood vessels in your abdomen.
  • Oral Health: You should go to the dentist every 6-12 months for an exam and cleaning. The American Dental Association provides additional information about your dental health.
  • Vision Problems: Routine eye exams prevent and control eye diseases and vision loss that may result in disability. Common eye disorders include refractive errors, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Eye exams generally include a review of your personal and family health histories, an evaluation of your vision, and tests for certain vision-related conditions, such as glaucoma. Learn vision care basics from Vision Health Alliance.
  • Hearing Loss: As we age, it becomes harder to hear. However, most people ignore the effects of hearing loss and fail to get tested and treated. Additional information about hearing loss and tests can be found at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.