Splashed all over the media, a new report says you can cross “get an annual checkup” off your to-do list. Scientists in Denmark announced that yearly doctor visits didn’t help 182,880 people live longer or sidestep medical problems.
Well, just showing up once a year isn’t what makes those annual visits so valuable; it’s actually getting good advice, making a plan to stay healthy and following it. That makes you live younger, longer and happier. So, our advice? Keep those appointments, then use the getting-you-healthier plan that you and your doc devise — PLUS the tips in this column — to kick-start a healthy-living revolution guaranteed to make you feel better and roll back your RealAge.
You can transform that all-too-often rushed and confusing doctor’s appointment (you’re lucky to get 18 minutes — demand more) and make sure you’re not one of the 50 percent of patients who walk out not knowing what to do next.
Partner with your doc. We love it when you become the world’s leading expert on you, your body and your health. (Go to ShareCare.com or Realage.com and search for “How can I have a better doctor checkup?” Then click on our videos.) Knowing as much as possible about any health conditions you have — and about treatment options — can boost your well-being, save money and help you sidestep drugs and procedures you don’t need.
Come prepared. Bring along a list of the drugs, supplements and remedies you take, extra medical info (like X-rays or reports from another doctor), all your health insurance information and a note pad and pencil (maybe a tape recorder and/or a friend or relative) to record what happens. And write down in advance any special questions you want answered.
Have these basic questions handy. Make sure you know the answers to these when you leave, and others you may have:
Are you concerned about any aspect of my health?
Do you have any recommendations about what I can do on my own (like exercising or diet changes) to improve my health?
Should I lose or gain weight?
Are there tests I need based on my age or for other reasons?
When should I come back for a follow-up appointment?
Set health goals with your doctor. Lose 15 pounds? Lower blood pressure or LDL cholesterol by 20 points? Set a real target, with a “done by” date. If the goal’s a big one, break it down into mini or daily steps.
Call in reinforcements. Your doc may not have an hour to run through the basics of diabetes care or how to upgrade your eating habits, but he or she can direct you to those who do. Ask about support groups and find out what your insurance covers (visits with a registered dietitian, diabetes educator, cardiac rehab with an exercise physiologist or therapist, or even people who can make reminder calls to help you stay on track). There’s plenty of proof that the team approach really works.
Find a community of support. Online at sharecare.com you can find tips for reaching out to dozens of support groups. Local hospitals will also have info.
Find out what to do at home. Would a home blood pressure monitor, a new blood-sugar meter or a smartphone app that tracks your fruits and vegetables help you reach your goals?
Schedule a follow-up visit. You and your health partner (aka your doctor) can make midcourse corrections to your plan so you can meet your goal: Six visits in a row in which you achieve normal blood pressure, the best weight for your height, healthy LDL cholesterol and fasting blood sugar levels, have all immunizations up-to-date, and no tobacco use. Your yearly checkup isn’t just to get a blessing (no cancer, whew), it is to set targets and then ensure you have enough support to hit them.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information, go to www.RealAge.com.