When your doctor asks you how you’re doing, he or she is not just being polite. Your doctor wants to know the details of what’s going on in your life.
There are times when casual comments can provide helpful clues about your health. Think of your doctor as a detective, always on the case to help you be as healthy as possible. Whether they’re about past issues, a current problem or upcoming events that may affect your health, details can provide important clues that help your doctor take better care of you.
Events or Travel?
Big events like weddings, dances, festivals or conferences may prompt a chat about dietary needs or risks. Ask if there are foods and drinks that might give you bad reactions based on a condition you have or medicine you take.
Travel has its own risks. You may have to get shots, or you may be exposed to disease outbreaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks outbreaks all around the world all year long.
Also, taking long flights without much opportunity to stretch your legs may cause blood clots. Your health care provider may suggest that you wear pressure socks to help prevent them.
Moving or Remodeling?
Moving and remodeling, and even landscaping, can be tied to several possible health issues. Any of the three can involve contact with dust and mold. These may trigger some respiratory conditions. Sometimes reactions may bring conditions to light for the first time.
Remodeling may involve exposure to lead paint or other toxic substances used in older structures.
In addition, any of these activities may involve unusual lifting and stress to back and limbs. If you have projects coming up, ask your doctor about risks and preventive tips.
If you recently completed this kind of project and find yourself with unusual respiratory symptoms or a mysterious rash, discussing the projects may give your doctor clues about how to help you.
Changing jobs can be a factor in your health, too. Job changes are almost always stressful. Your doctor may want to keep a closer eye on physical markers for stress and check your cardiovascular metrics like pulse and blood pressure. You may be asked if you have any muscle tension issues related to new work environments or commute demands. What about headaches, stomach upset?
A new job could mean you might change your health plan, which can affect how you get care. So be sure you understand your new benefits if you have changed plans.
Other Life Events?
Those “life events” that we talk about that may qualify you for a special enrollment period are not just triggers for changes in health coverage.
Births. Deaths. Marriage. Divorce. They all can create stress, and even depression or anxiety. Sleep patterns may change. Diet or exercise may change. Perhaps you’re taking new vitamins (or forgetting to take them or needed medications).
These events may be private and hard to talk about. But the fact they are hard to talk about is why your doctor should be aware of them.
There are good reasons for you to share what is going on in your life with your doctors. Many doctors are trained to ask questions about our personal lives as part of the exam. Try to be open and honest with your doctors. And even if they don’t ask, share your latest news.
And remember, your doctor is bound by privacy laws, so your information is confidential.