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Your User’s Guide to Health Care

Advice for keeping the whole crew in top health


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Never before have doctors had more power to heal. We live at a time when medicine is advancing at a dizzying pace. But the first step—connecting with the care you need—is up to you. So whether you need a checkup yourself, you’re concerned about your spouse’s health, or you want to be prepared for your child’s upcoming appointment, read on for some advice that will smooth the path.


Top Priority: Annual Checkups

If you’re feeling good, you might be tempted to skip your annual physical. You might even have heard about a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found annual exams to be unnecessary, given that most people manage to get preventive care at other doctor visits.

But an annual checkup gives your doctor a dedicated block of time to review your health history, conduct a physical exam, and create a personalized care plan for you. In fact, in a survey of nearly 800 primary care physicians—also published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—94 percent said annual exams improve the patient–doctor relationship, and 74 percent said they improve early detection of illness.

An annual physical may vary, depending on your needs, but you can likely expect the following:

•Medical history—your doctor will ask about you and your family’s medical history, your health habits (like smoking and exercise), vaccinations, and any concerns you might have.
•Vital sign checks—these include blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration checks.
•Heart exam—done with a stethoscope, to detect an irregular heartbeat and other signs of heart disease.
•Abdominal exam—your doctor may feel your abdomen or use a stethoscope to detect liver or bowel abnormalities.
•Prostate exam (for men)—the doctor feels your prostate for suspicious lumps.
•Breast and pelvic exam (for women)—your doctor examines your breasts for suspicious lumps and conducts a Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer.  

To prepare for your upcoming exam, make a list of your questions and concerns. Are you experiencing any symptoms? Would you like advice on changing your diet? Also make a list of any medications you’re currently taking, including vitamins and herbal remedies. During your appointment, take notes so you have a record of your doctor’s instructions and advice.

Need a New Doctor?

Visit John Muir Health’s “Find a Doctor” tool at http://fad.johnmuirhealth.com/, or call (925) 952-2887 (select Option 1) for personal assistance finding a physician who meets your needs.

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