Black women understand that their vehicles, their pets and even their air conditioning units require regular checkups – but they don’t always extend that same belief to themselves. Regular checkups are an important part of detecting problems at an early stage and putting preventative plans in action. However, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that nearly 40 percent of women skipped regular checkups throughout the pandemic. Skipping one or two annual physical exams might seem like no big deal, but the Journal of the American Medical Association states that there can be major consequences – such as cancer being found at a later stage.
If you wait to see a doctor until something feels really wrong, it might be too late. You’ll likely be looking at damage control as opposed to preventative measures at that point. However, the Journal of Urban Health reports that Black women are less likely than white women to go to a primary care physician, and more likely to turn to emergency services when something goes wrong with their health. There are, of course, underlying reasons for these differences, including a long-standing distrust between the Black community and healthcare providers and a lack of access to primary care providers. However, the importance of checkups cannot be overlooked, and National Women’s Checkup Day, which falls on May 9, is a day that focuses on why these exams are essential. In an effort to carry the day forward, MADAMENOIRE outlined ways to make the most of your checkup.
Go Over All Medications
If you see multiple specialists throughout the year, you could be taking several medications. It’s important all your doctors are up to date on all of your medications. They can then discuss possible interactions, and it’s important they know how some of these medications could impact the results of some of your tests such as blood pressure or bloodwork. If you’ve been experiencing unwanted side effects, your checkup is a good time to talk about these with your doctor and see if an alternative medication is an option. A good doctor will be up to date on recent research on medications, as well, and might be able to recommend newer alternatives.
Report Any New Symptoms
As a patient, you can’t always see the big picture that your doctor can. That’s why reporting any and all new symptoms to your physician is important. They can keep track of changes in your health over the years, and can often connect the dots between some of the things you’re experiencing and other factors – such as your diet, medications, family medical history and more. The more information your doctor has, the better they can monitor your health and make informed recommendations for things like screenings and preventative measures.
Report Family Medical History
If you have learned of new information regarding your family medical history – or someone in your family received a new diagnosis – report this to your doctor. There are some conditions that are hereditary, or that become more likely for you as a patient if they’ve occurred in your family. Giving your doctor this information empowers them to know what to look for in your health and be aware of early warning signs.
Discuss Changes In Your Mental Health
Though your regular physician cannot act as a therapist, they can refer you to one. Depending on the type of insurance you have, you might require a recommendation for a mental health expert from your physician, in order for insurance to cover it. Mental health is a part of overall health and should be considered just as important as physical health. If you’ve felt increased feelings of depression or anxiety, report these to your doctor. This reminder is especially important to Black women, as the Journal of Black Psychology found that this group is less likely than others to report mental health issues or seek treatment.
Discuss Changes In Diet Or Physical Activity
Sometimes, the smallest change in diet – including taking or quitting certain supplements – can lead to major changes in energy, weight, mood and even results of the bloodwork. Be sure your doctor knows if you recently became a vegan, went Keto, stopped eating a certain food group entirely or made another major change. It’s also important to tell your doctor if your lifestyle has required a new level of physical activity, too – whether that’s less or more activity. Your doctor can talk to you about the implications of this change, and what steps you can take to make sure you remain in good health.
Stay Up To Date On Vaccines
Your doctor knows which vaccines it’s important to take at different times of your life, and even different times of the year. As the CDC reports, different vaccines are recommended throughout one’s life, from the HPV vaccine recommended for young adults to the whooping cough vaccine suggested later in life. Keeping track of these on your own can be difficult. Your doctor can be a great resource in this area.
Receive Timely Screenings
Depending on your stage of life, medical history, family medical history and other preexisting factors, there are many screenings you could need. From mammograms to colonoscopies, there’s a lot to cover. MN listed the five critical health screenings for women, and your doctor can keep you informed on when it’s time for your next big screenings.