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For the sake of your health – making the most of your doctor’s appointment
Expert advice from Dr. Rhonda Johnson, Highmark medical director
How many times have you gone to the doctor and left thinking – “I forgot to ask” or “what I’m supposed to do” or “what did the doctor say was wrong with me?”
Whether you are going for a routine check-up or a follow-up visit, you can take steps to make sure you receive the best care possible.
Speak Up: Talk about your health concerns
Be prepared to talk about your health history, any symptoms you have felt, any medications you have taken (bring them with you) and any allergies that you have. It’s important to tell your doctor your personal information – even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
Ask Questions
Ask questions – if you don’t, it will seem as if you understand everything that was said. Don’t leave the visit without knowing the answers to these three questions:
·         #1. What is my problem?
·         #2. What do I need to do to get better?
·         #3. Why is it important for me to do this?
You can write down your questions before your visit and take note while you’re there. You can also bring a friend or family member that you trust with you to the visit. Ask for handouts that help explain any conditions that you may have. Ask for written instructions for medications, treatment plans or for follow-up tests that you may need.
Follow-up with your care
Call your physician’s office you have questions, experience side effects or if your symptoms do not improve or get worse. Schedule all appointments for tests and lab work and keep your appointments. Keep your health information and medication in a special place at home – maybe a special drawer or shelf, somewhere that you can remember where you placed it.
If you have been given a new diagnosis, learn all you can about that health problem and its treatment. The more informed you can be, the healthier you will be. Visit your health insurer’s website for reliable health information or visit other websites. Some insurers offer guided services for members such as Highmark’s Blues On Callsm, which provides free, 24-hour health coaching.You can get in touch by calling the number on the back of your Highmark member ID card. It is important to get support – from family, friends or even join a support group.  
Know your numbers
Knowing important numbers— your blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose (blood sugar) and Body Mass Index (BMI) is a basic step in taking an active role in your health.
·         Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated from a person’s weight and height. A high BMI can increase your chance of developing a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.
·         Glucose (blood sugar) provides the body with the energy it needs to function properly. Having a glucose level that is higher than normal may be a sign of pre-diabetes or diabetes, and ongoing monitoring may be required.
·         Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in the bloodstream and your body’s cells. A blood test called a “Lipid Profile” measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It is an indicator of your risk for heart disease.
·         Blood pressure is the force applied to the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. Your blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers. The systolic or “top” number is the pressure when the heart is pumping blood, and the diastolic or “bottom” number is the pressure when the heart relaxes. If your blood pressure is consistently high it may damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys, and it can occur without symptoms.
You can improve your care and the care of your loved ones by taking an active role and making the most out of every health care visit. Be prepared. Ask questions. Understand your condition. Follow-up. Build a relationship with your health care provider. Find optimal health and wellness.
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