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5 Ways To Have A More Productive Doctor’s Visit

5 Ways To Have A More Productive Doctor’s Visit

Going to see the doctor can be a stressful experience. In ten to fifteen minutes you must explain your complaint, watch as your doctor examines you, then discuss the diagnosis and treatment plan. That’s a lot of information to absorb in a short period of time and it’s hardly surprising some patients leave their doctor’s office feeling bewildered.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to improve your experience at your doctor’s office, and these simple strategies can make a marked change in how you perceive the visit as well as your overall health outcomes. In this article we’ll discuss five such techniques for getting past the things you are probably doing wrong at your doctor’s appointment.

Write things down.

Studies have shown that patients cannot recall upwards of 40% of medical information that their doctor provided during a consultation. Yet, many patients don’t bring paper or pen nor do they ask their doctor to write down the details of their specific treatment plan.  The generic treatment handout is hardly a substitute for the detailed information the doctor provides during the visit.

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    It’s important to write the details down because medical errors are a fact of life.  Did the Doctor say 10mg of that medicine or 15mg?  Are you sure that the dose sent to the pharmacy is in fact correct and not just a typo made by an overworked and stressed medical professional?  Minor errors like these affect hundreds of thousands (ref) of Americans yearly, and are instantly and completely resolvable simply by writing things down and keeping your own records.

    You may also be able to significantly affect the outcome of your disease or injury through the simple act of taking psychological control of your health and keeping a journal of what your doctor said and how you plan to implement his recommendations. It’s remarkable how powerful writing things down can be.

    Pay attention to comments about lifestyle.

    Doctors spend countless hours telling their patients to pay attention to their lifestyle, to lose weight, to eat right, to take their blood pressure and diabetes medications as prescribed. Many patients simply ignore these recommendations and go on with their lives.

    If your doctor says you need to lose weight, you’d should ask how they recommend you do that rather than simply letting the comment pass.  If they say 30 minutes of exercise each day, then make a joint plan to do that, as well as a follow-up appointment when you can come back in and measure progress.   There’s a good chance that after listening to your question your doctor will be absolutely thrilled.  After all, how many patients take the time to engage with their physician and actually do what they are told?

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    Don’t expect a pill at every visit.

    Many patients expect a simple solution to their problems and nothing is simpler than popping a pill.  In many cases medication may not be required to resolve your problem, and the risk of side effects may outweigh the benefits. Doctors know this only too well, but may feel pressured by their patients who expect a pill as the outcome of the visit.

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      Before you agree to take a medication ask the doctor about the side effects, and question if the net benefit of the medicines outweighs the risks.  This simple candid question signals your willingness to not be one of “those people” who has to have pills when they are not needed and encourages your doctor to think of alternative therapies that could be used.

      One truly saddening side effect of our pill culture is addiction, and the number one controlled substance prescribed in the USA is OxyContin.  While it may seem like a good idea to get that script for a more powerful medicine just in case, or because your OTC medicine isn’t doing the job, avoid the temptation to use more powerful medicines unless they are absolutely required.  Remember, addiction is a terrifying force that wrecks homes and lives, and it all starts with that first pill.

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      Keep asking questions!

      Asking questions can be a highly effective way to turn a medical appointment into a productive time where both you and your doctor think of ways to better understand and treat your condition.  Questions focus your thoughts at a time when your natural tendencies to be distracted can overwhelm you.

      It’s always a good idea to come to the appointment with a list of questions written out and ready to go. I like to hand these to the doctor at the beginning of the appointment so they have a chance to really express their opinions on these points as we go, rather than waiting until the last five minutes.

      Be informed before the appointment.

      If you’re going to ask sensible questions during your appointment, you’ll probably need to do some research of your own before the appointment, particularly if it’s a follow up or a referral to a new doctor and you already have a preliminary diagnosis.

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        Researching medical conditions on the internet is a contentious issue as the amount of factual and accurate data out there is greatly outweighed by the mountains of “expert” opinions that can be found on almost very condition.  It’s important to use well curated resources such as WebMD, MedLine, as well as the websites of the major hospitals in the US such as the Mayo and Cleveland Clinic.

        The purpose of your research is not to challenge your doctor’s expertise by becoming an expert yourself.  It’s very easy to read a few short summary pages and think you can make a good diagnosis, but your doctor has years of experience in both the literature and the clinic to draw on, and is certainly in a better spot to answer questions.  You just need to be able to understand what’s being said so that you can make the best possible decisions in your own care, and research can help you do that.

        Featured photo credit: flickr via flickr.com

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        Colin Rhodes

        Chief Technology Officer

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        Last Updated on March 25, 2020

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

        When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

        So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

        1. Exercise

        It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

        2. Drink in Moderation

        I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

        3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

        Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

        4. Watch Less Television

        A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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        Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

        5. Eat Less Red Meat

        Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

        If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

        6. Don’t Smoke

        This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

        7. Socialize

        Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

        8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

        Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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        9. Be Optimistic

        Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

        10. Own a Pet

        Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

        11. Drink Coffee

        Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

        12. Eat Less

        Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

        13. Meditate

        Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

        Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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        How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

        14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

        Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

        15. Laugh Often

        Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

        16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

        Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

        17. Cook Your Own Food

        When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

        Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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        18. Eat Mushrooms

        Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

        19. Floss

        Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

        20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

        Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

        Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

        21. Have Sex

        Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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        Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

        Reference

        [1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
        [2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
        [3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
        [4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
        [5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
        [6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
        [7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
        [8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
        [9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
        [10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
        [11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
        [12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
        [14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
        [15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
        [16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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