This blog was originally published on September 10, 2019, and it is updated and republished on January 7, 2021.
When you visit your doctor you need to know how to get the most out of the visit and avoid mistakes that can worsen your health. In this article, you will learn 4 mistakes to avoid at your doctor visits. This will help you avoid preventable health problems and get better results.
1. You are told to “watch” your condition
This often happens when you have a problem that does not meet the criteria to be treated with medication. Examples are prediabetes, or “borderline” high blood pressure, or mildly elevated cholesterol. You may be told you need “observation to watch it ” and come back in a month or two. When this occurs, you might mistakenly conclude that your health condition isn’t to be taken seriously. As a result, you’re less likely to take action to change the trajectory of your illness. You may unknowingly be allowing your problem to get worse.
Use your “ borderline” diagnosis like a yellow traffic light. It is an unequivocal warning and red light is likely to follow. If you take your problems more seriously in their earlier stage, they are easier to resolve.
Just because your doctor doesn’t prescribe medication for a problem does not mean it’s time to relax and feel complacent. You shouldn’t just sit back and watch your health gradually decline. Take a look at how your eating habits and lifestyle may be the cause of preventable health conditions. Be proactive sooner than later and you will get better results.
2. You are just treating symptoms
Regrettably, in cases of chronic lifestyle diseases, conventional medicine is designed to treat symptoms. In order to heal yourself, you need to start dealing with the root cause. Some patients are convinced that their family history is the main issue so they resign themselves to rely on medications for life. That’s one of the biggest mistakes to avoid.
On the other hand, nutrient-rich whole plant-based food and healthy lifestyle choices have been proven to support self-healing. Type 2 diabetes is an excellent example of a lifestyle disease that is reversible with plant-based nutrition. [Ref 1]
Eleven years ago I developed prediabetes. Prior to that, I was taking numerous pills a day for acid reflux, pain, pneumonia, and inflammation. Finally, I realized that chasing symptoms with pills was not improving my health. So I shifted my focus and began consuming healthier food. A whole food plant-based diet changed my life. When my food became my medicine, I reversed my prediabetes, and all of my symptoms resolved as well. I was able to get off my prescription drugs. Today I save thousands of dollars on prescription drugs and medical care, plus I feel better and have more energy to do the things I enjoy.
With lifestyle diseases, the solution is to change your habits. Healthier eating and lifestyle habits help you avoid serious problems in the future. Here are some examples of lifestyle conditions for which medications are commonly used to mask symptoms of the disease without addressing the root cause:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Elevated cholesterol
- Chronic pain
- Acid reflux
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
3. You are afraid to assert yourself
Many people have a tendency to be passive in doctor-patient relationships. To get the best care, you must assert yourself, raise your concerns, and ask questions about your diagnosis and treatment plan. Ultimately, how well you communicate about your concerns determines the quality, accuracy, and timeliness of the care that you receive.
Feelings of embarrassment or insecurity are barriers that prevent you from speaking up and articulating your concerns. When you are sitting on an examination table wearing a crinkly paper gown, you are naturally feeling disempowered. Also, you may be uncomfortable questioning your diagnosis or treatment because you view doctors as authority figures. However, if you want to get good health care, your input is crucial. You are the expert on your unique symptoms and any changes happening in your body. If you don’t stand up for yourself and effectively communicate with your doctor, they will not take you and your concerns seriously.
Go prepared. Your doctor is going to walk into the room and ask what brings you in. Avoid a deer-in the headlights response. Craft a clear concise opening statement describing your problem and symptoms. Come prepared with a prepared list of questions and concerns. In a typical encounter with a doctor, you only get 10 minutes (or less) to effectively communicate your concerns; don’t ramble aimlessly. Do your homework so that you are more knowledgeable and can formulate meaningful questions. Check reputable online resources such as Mayo Clinic’s guide on diseases and conditions.
Also, it helps to bring an advocate, a trusted relative or friend, to help you communicate with your doctor and recall the verbal instructions. If that person cannot be physically present, place a call with the speakerphone on and bring them into the conversation. The healthcare system is challenging, but you can make it work better for you by communicating assertively, preparing ahead, and asking for the help that you need.
4. You are afraid to admit that you stopped taking the medicine
If you are prescribed medication and decide, for whatever reason, not to take it, you must tell your doctor. Otherwise, on your return visit, your doctor will increase the dose and or add more of the same medications, assuming that you are not responding to the first medication. Talk to your doctor about why you don’t want to take the medicine. This way your doctor can give you advice that matches your actual needs.
The high cost is one of the most common reasons why patients don’t take their medicine. A research study found that that one out of three patients do not get their first-time prescriptions filled. [Ref 2]. Unfortunately, even basic medications like insulin are extremely expensive. Even with good insurance, some medicine is unaffordable.
Nasty drug side effects often cause patients to stop taking their medications. Medications side effects are sometimes so disruptive that they impact the quality of life. Dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, pain, and fatigue, are all common medication side effects. Remember your doctor may not fully appreciate the severity of the side effects and their impact on you, so it’s very important that you speak up. Have a discussion about alternatives and ask for information on healthier foods and lifestyle habits that can potentially help you improve your health naturally.
By avoiding these common mistakes at your doctor visits, you can take control of your health. If you are diagnosed with any of the chronic lifestyle diseases, be proactive. Learning how to heal yourself with food and lifestyle changes. Seek information on ways to create a healthier lifestyle in order to have more energy and better health. Communicate assertively and honestly with your doctor so that you get accurate medical advice. Ask for help when needed so that you get the best outcomes possible.
Ref 1. McMacken M, Shah S. A plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017;14(5):342-354.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28630614
Ref 2.One in three patients not filling prescriptions, study finds. American Academy of Family Physicians website https://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20140428nonadherencestudy.html.
Experiencing diabetes and want to take back control of your health? You may be a good fit for the step-by-step online course, Optimal Health Reset. Learn how to create eating and lifestyle habits to naturally stabilize your blood sugar and heal yourself. The next step is to book the Free Discovery Call to see if the course is right for you. It’s time to get the empowering information you need so that you get started with your healthier lifestyle.
Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a physician, health coach, workplace wellness consultant, and speaker. She helps people heal themselves with food. Through wellness workshops and courses, she helps companies create healthy, energetic teams.
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