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Have you ever asked a friend or relative what they found out after a doctor visit, and they respond with very little information? You proceed to ask a million questions: What about the lab results? What are they going to do now? When are you supposed to go back? Do you need to change your diet? Do you need more (or less) medication? When are they going to do that procedure? So many people completely rely on their doctors to take care of their health, when in reality doctors have only a small role in your health care. The majority of health outcomes are determined by factors over which health care providers have no control, such as lifestyle choices and social conditions. We all have to take a larger role in the management of our health. Here are ways you can be your own health advocate. Ask questions. You have a right to understand your diagnosis and proposed plan of care. Know what your main health problems are, what action you need to take and why. If you don’t understand, ask your doctor to explain it again or write it down for you. You may even take a family member or close friend with you to hear what the doctor says as well. Know your test results and what they mean. So many times I would see a patient for high cholesterol who would say, “They didn’t tell me what it was, just that it was high.” Well, there is a big difference between a total cholesterol of 205 and 295. Know the numbers and your targets. Before each visit to the doctor, make a list of questions for him so that you will not forget to ask, or just hand him the list when he comes in. Know your medications. You should have a list of your medications and dosages in your purse or wallet at all times for health care professionals or in case of an emergency. If you don’t know why you are on a certain medication, its purpose or how you should take it, find out. Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Focus on prevention. Don’t wait until it’s broken to fix it. Visit your doctor regularly for check-ups and tests recommended for your age or based on your family history.
The following list of preventive measures also can help you take control of your health and health care:
For the most part, you are responsible for managing your care. You can make the biggest impact on your health. Remember the saying, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” Be informed, be involved and be healthy. Jessica Spalding Bickett is a community/school registered dietitian with Lincoln Trail District Health Department. Nutrition counseling is available for children and adults by appointment at the Hardin County Health Center. Monthly classes are also offered for weight loss and persons with diabetes. For further information, call (270) 765-6196.