We get it: your doctor’s appointment is rarely accompanied by stars on the calendar, but regular checkups are key to optimizing your health. Why? The biggest reason is early detection. Sometimes our lives are so busy that we don’t even notice that we haven’t been feeling 100% in… we can’t remember how long. Whether you are suffering from a minor illness or a serious condition, early detection is key to a quick and full recovery. For example, the survival rate of stage 1 cancer is 100%, while stage 2 cancer which is 93%, according to Cancer.org. We’re not sure about you, but we’ll go with the 100% thank you very much.
How Often Should You See Your Doctor?
OK, so early detection is imperative to recovery; how often should we see our doc then? It depends. Of course, it is always a good idea to go for regular checkups every year, but consider a few key factors when mapping out your visits:
1. Age – the older you become, the more you should check in with your doctor. We’re hoping to help you live to 100, and routine visits are an important piece of the puzzle.
2. Existing Illness – If you have an existing condition that requires regular treatment, you are likely already adhering to some type of schedule. If you aren’t on a schedule and experience any worsening symptoms, it’s a good idea to make an appointment right away.
3. Health Changes – again, underlying conditions can be sneaky. It’s important to remain watchful, not fearful – but stay in tune with your body. Have you suddenly lost weight, habitually wake up exhausted after a full night’s rest, or have recurring headaches? It’s good to get these seemingly minor symptoms checked out if they’re becoming a little too familiar.
4. Family History – ask questions about your family history as genes play a big role in your health. While healthy lifestyle habits will assist in preventing and mitigating these conditions as much as possible, it’s smart to keep tabs on potential genetic conditions with regular checkups.
When to Make an Appointment With Your Doctor
If you don’t have any chronic disease or malicious family history, there are still some general red flags to be on the lookout for. It’s important to balance this with a healthy and positive outlook – oftentimes symptoms can be chalked up to external factors. If they persist, ease your mind by getting them checked out.
- Unprompted weight loss or weight gain
- Persistent headaches
- A fever that won’t break
- Chronic stomach ache
- A lump in your throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Numb fingers and toes
- Unexplained weakness
- Neck aches
- Lingering cough
- Feeling full after a few bites
- An injury that won’t heal
- Constant backache
- Change in vision
- Swollen extremities
Pro Tip: Regular Checkups Are Easier When You Like Your Doctor
Regular checkups become easier to schedule when you like the doctor you’re working with. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the choices, but imperative to do the research to find a practitioner who you are comfortable with and trust. Ideally, you’re looking for a doc who takes the time to listen to you and respects your explanations; there’s nothing worse than trying to describe what’s going on with your body, only to have your practitioner brush it off.
You want to feel comfortable asking questions and satisfied with the thoughtful answer. As a patient, it is important to be your own advocate, remain upfront about your concerns, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about prescriptions to ensure it’s the right fit for your body.
If you have health insurance, the first step is a simple one: find doctors within your network. Once you have a running list, start researching. Nothing beats a recommendation from a trusted friend, but you can also discover plenty online. The review site Healthgrades is like Yelp for doctors, allowing you to search by specialty and location. Cross-reference with your insurance provider and you are well on your way to finding a doc.
After reducing your options down to a choice few, begin reaching out to the offices to see if they are taking new patients. Once you have had your first appointment, assess your visit. Health.gov has some great questions to ask the office and yourself to ensure this is the right fit for you.
Regular Checkups with Preventative Care Professionals
Sometimes the more you go to the doctor the less you have to go to the doctor. What we mean is an investment in some preventative care can have a huge impact on your health for the better. This can keep you out of waiting rooms you’d rather not be in.
Chiropractor. Semi-regular visits to the chiropractor are excellent for aligning your spine, combatting our habitually hunched backs as we sit working at our desks *subconsciously straightens back*. Your spinal cord and thereby nervous system also run along the length of your back; an adjustment has been shown to do much more than just get your bones aligned.
Massage Therapist. Beyond the chiropractor, consider making appointments with a massage therapist or acupuncturist to really target sore muscles and handle the mental weight of stress with a physical outlet.
Therapist or Dietician. Stress can manifest into physical issues; addressing stress by visiting a therapist can greatly relieve this pressure. If stress eating (or any type of eating challenge) is something you need assistance with, make an appointment with a dietician to get your nutrition back on track.
Personal Trainer or Facialist. Perhaps you need more motivation to exercise. Take that leap to book a session with a personal trainer; they will work with you no matter what level of exercise you are comfortable with! If you’re looking for another way to release stress lines, book a facial and treat your skin to a refresh that makes you feel rejuvenated.
The point is that there are countless ways to invest in your health. It is always a responsible idea to see your primary practitioner, but there are many methods to supplement these visits and keep in tune with your body.
Regular checkups with your doctor allow sneaky underlying conditions to be caught early, which is key to a fast and full recovery. If you are experiencing any of the red flag symptoms listed, don’t be afraid to make an appointment. Not only will it ease your mind if nothing is amiss, catching conditions in the early stages will make your journey to recovery much easier. To make those regular visits, do your research to find a practitioner that you feel comfortable with; one that listens to you fully and respects your input. Lastly, invest in some preventative care to really stay in tune with your body. These steps will optimize your health and allow you to do more of what you love!
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