Don’t let your next checkup go by without telling your doctor about these four things. The answers might be an important part of diagnosing, treating and even preventing health problems.
How are you sleeping?
If you’re getting less than six hours of sleep a night, frequently wake up during the night, or wake up feeling tired, it can mean more than a cranky start to your day or a mid-afternoon yearning for a nap. Sleep problems – from getting too little sleep to problems like sleep apnea – can increase your blood pressure, your blood glucose and your weight, and put you at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. It even makes you more likely to have a work or auto accident. Scientists say lack of sleep influences hormone levels, which in turn can have complex consequences for health.
If you’re having any problems with sleep, tell your doctor so she can consider whether it’s impacting your health issues. Ask about ways to get a better night’s sleep.
Are you using any herbal, alternative or complementary medicine?
Many people use their own non-traditional approaches to good health that might not be available by prescription. That may be fine – but your doctor needs to know. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it won’t impact your health or interact with other medications your doctor prescribes. Supplements like body building, weight loss products or megavitamins, for example, can affect your health in unintended ways. Your doctor can make sure the information is included in your medical record to avoid future problems and keep track of all the medications you are taking.
There also are many well respected therapies that complement traditional medicine, from acupuncture and chiropractic care to yoga, meditation and therapeutic massage. Your doctor should know if you are using any of these, so together you can consider all aspects of your health and well-being.
How’s your love life?
We get it, it’s private. But your doctor should know about your sexual activity and what precautions you are taking against sexually transmitted diseases.
You should also tell your doctor if you are experiencing any change in sexual function, which can be an indicator of other health issues.
What can’t you do?
Does your health keep you from doing any activities you want to do? Did you give up jogging because your knee hurts too much, or knitting because arthritis in your fingers makes it too painful? Can’t walk the dog around the neighborhood because you get short-of-breath? Your doctor won’t know, and can’t help you figure out the problem and address it, unless you bring it up at your visit.
Communicating with your doctor is an important part of patient safety. Make sure you are telling your doctor everything he or she needs to know.