Important questions to ask at your next doctor appointment

School is back in session for most kids, which means it's time to buckle down and get back on a schedule. During the summer many people relax the rules by having an ice cream cone, have another drink during the week, or take a couple days off from the gym due to traveling or other summer fun, causing them to gain a few extra pounds.

Dr. Diana Bitner, a nationally recognized menopause specialist from Spectrum Health, says fall is a time when people need to take inventory on their health and get themselves ready for another year. Even if a doctor appointment is months away, there are five questions patients should ask their doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner.

1. What is my risk for a heart attack?

Most people think, “a heart attack won’t happen to me.” Hoping is not effective prevention for a heart attack, patients need to know their risk factors of having a heart attack such as:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Pre-eclampsia in pregnancy
  • Diabetes or pre-diabetes
  • Cholesterol levels: total, HDL (< 60) , LDL (> 100)
  • High sensitivity CRP
  • Waist circumference
  • Blood pressure

2.What is my risk for osteoporosis?

By age 32, bone mass reaches its peak and people experience overall loss the rest of their lives. Bones are constantly being remodeled, and over time breakdown beats build-up. At menopause  without estrogen replacement the bone loss accelerates to a rate which can increase risk of fracture. Calcium is the building block of bone, and Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed through the gut.

Here are the risk factors to be aware of for bone loss:

  • Menopause
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Inactivity (< 20 minutes per day or 50 jumps)
  • More than 2 servings alcohol drinks per day
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Long term use of birth control hormones such as Depoprovera
  • Drugs used to fight breast cancer-tamoxifen, Arimidex, Femera

3. What is my risk for colon cancer?

Colon cancer is very common, and the strongest risk factor is aging. All people need a screening colonoscopy at age 50, but some people need it sooner such as having a first degree family member with large colon polyps or colon cancer before 50. Here are reasons people should consider getting an early colonoscopy:

  • Family History large polyps or early colon cancer
  • Persistent change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Dark blood in bowel movements

4. What immunizations do I need?

As winter approaches, a flu shot is highly recommended. Students going off to college are recommended to take the Hepatitis A and the meningococcus vaccines.

People under 29 who have not had the Gardasil vaccines should talk to their health care provider.

At 50 or older, it is recommended people get the shingles vaccine, and at 65 it is recommended people get the pneumococcal vaccine. Ask your doctor to look at  health records and confirm you are up to date on vaccines.

Dr. Bitner says at the end of the day, it's your responsibility to keep up on your health. Fall is the time of year to pull out the book, and make sure your health is on track.

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616)-267-8225.

All information was provided by Dr. Diana Bitner, her blog. Read more.

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