This may not be the sexiest article, but it covers an extremely important topic you should take seriously. The problems I see people face because of paranoia, lazy testing, and a lack of testing are overwhelming. Take a minute and write a few things down for your next check-up.
If we look at the current trend of doctor visits, people fall into the following three categories:
1. They don’t go to the doctor.
2. They go to the doctor, but just go through the motions.
3. They go to the doctor and demand medical attention for the money they are spending.
Why Don’t People Go to the Doctor?
Most every one of us can attest to having a horrible doctor experience. It can often feel like the only thing better than going to visit the doctor is being held at gun point. For some people, there is an economic factor involved when they can’t afford to go. Then there are those who don’t want to go simply because they want to avoid hearing bad news (and they are positive that’s what is awaiting them). For some people, not knowing is a better option.
As far as the economic factors are concerned, there are real limitations and, in many places, a system that caters to the wealthy. There is no doubt about that. Work the best you can with the hand you have been dealt and stay as informed as possible regarding the current state of your health care options.
If you are lucky enough to have a choice and the financial means to go to the doctor, I ask, “What are you doing?”
Doctors Just Stop Fixing You?
You can’t put all the blame on the doctors—patients have to take responsibility too. Try to understand and relate for a moment from a doctor’s perspective. They see people who may or may not listen to what they say. These people usually aren’t in the best of moods, and statistically they end up where they are because they’ve neglected their own health. I’m not saying that any doctor should not take their job seriously; what I am saying is how you present yourself in the office has a lot to do with how you are treated.
What to Do Before/When You Go to the Doctor
1. Study and Have Questions
I don’t mean go on WebMD and start diagnosing yourself. However, if you have logical fears that you may be dealing with a certain set of problems, be ready to ask and answer specific questions. For example, if you are fearful of having thyroid condition, be ready to ask for all the tests you want and be detailed in your request so it’s not overlooked.
2. Be Ready To Speak First
You can’t expect doctors to be mind readers. You also can’t expect them to always know how serious things are. Their method can be very “in and out” and you don’t have a lot of time to make an impression. You can’t be afraid of seeming crazy or needy. It is your money dammit, spend it well. It’s amazing how people will point out a $2.00 error on their shopping bill, but will spend hundreds of dollars to be ignored. Make yourself known.
3. Opinions…Everyone Has Them
There are some things in this world that are a little more cut and dry, for instance your leg being broken. Other times it’s connecting the dots and putting a puzzle together. People put pieces together in different ways; sometimes they don’t have all the information they need to make an educated guess. Sometimes people just don’t give a damn. Whatever the reason, if you aren’t happy with an opinion, go somewhere else.
4. Be Picky in the First Place
Don’t go to just any doctor (or trainer or PT or dentist, for that matter). Take a few hours, call your friends for referrals or do a little online searching. It can save a lot of heartache and get you better results in the long term.
5. Do What They Say
If you trust your professional, do what they say. I am baffled when someone spends thousands of dollars on me and then doesn’t listen to what I say. Personally, I can no longer deal with people like that because of the sheer frustration it causes, and I remove these people from my client base because they won’t get results if they don’t listen. That may seem harsh, but it makes people pay attention.
Can you question authority? Of course, I demand it! However, unless you plan on becoming a medical expert in whichever field you are having trouble, there comes a point where you have to hope you made a good decision and follow the instructions you are given.
6. Don’t Just Go When You Are “Sick”
It’s an oldie, but a goody. Don’t just go to the doctor when you are sick. Don’t get a personal trainer just because you are “fat.” Don’t wait to do your mobility and stability work until you are hobbling around like old geezer. You would be surprised how much more you can accomplish if you aren’t sick in the first place.
The Top Tests
It is true that requesting very simple tests and taking action based on your results can save you from a lot of paranoia and paralysis. These tests can save your life. Getting real answers will stop you from having to resort to forum “doctors” ready to diagnose you with any and everything they are afraid they have themselves. Don’t do it yourself, go to a doctor, get the tests done, and have peace of mind.
General Medical Tests
These tests can usually be performed by any regular doctor with little to no complication. These test cover your basics and include things like vitamin D levels, blood counts, cholesterol, etc. These are extremely common tests and your doctor should have no problem performing them.
- The Complete Blood Count (CBC)
- The Basic Metabolic Panel (BMP)
- Lipid Profile
Advanced or Specialized Testing
If you feel something is out of the ordinary, the following tests are more detailed and delve deeper. It is extremely important to understand that there are a lot of doctors that won’t perform lab work like this easily. There can also be insurance complications and you may need to go to a specialist. Ultimately, the specialist will have their own ideas, but communicating with them regarding the tests you desire is a good way to let them know you are serious and informed.
Complete Thyroid Panel – This doesn’t just test thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). A complete panel will look at TSH, free triiodothyronine (fT3), free thyroxine (fT4), reverse T3, total T3, total T4, and antithyroid antibodies. The standard tests will not provide a full picture if you are having thyroid issues—these tests will. Note: This is very important. Dieting down dramatically affects thyroid levels and lowers them even in healthy individuals. It is important that you are in a fed state for at least two weeks before getting these tests, otherwise your results will be skewed.
Cortisol/Endocrine – There are variations and different tests. The best route is to visit an endocrine specialist and have one or both tests run. Get an ACTH or nontropical stimulation test along with a saliva cortisol test. The combination of both is a fool proof way to evaluate how well your system is functioning.
Male/Female Hormones – Some basic tests will cover these, but it usually takes being specific to get the tests you need. For women, you may have an easier time going to a gynecologist to get these (and your thyroid panel) run. I find they are more agreeable to testing than general practitioners or urgent care centers. Tests to consider include: estradiol, testosterone (total and free), DHEA, HGH, progesterone, and SHBG.
Autoimmune/Digestion Testing – This includes tests for celiac disease, IBS and RA. Most likely, you are going to get the best and easiest response from a gastroenterologist. If you are dealing with a lot of allergies, bloating, or digestion issues, this is a great place to start. Tests: AGA, endomysial antibodies, gliadin antibodies, tTG antibodies, IgA, endomysial antibody IgA, tTG IgA and tTG IgG, IBD profile, stool culture, C-reactive protein (CRP), rheumatoid factor, and ANA.
Allergies – Causes can range from the food you eat to your environment. You will get the best tests going to an allergy specialist; ideally, it should be one that specializes not only in scratch tests but blood work as well. The largest test is an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) comprehensive panel which evaluates food, medication, and environmental factors. You can also do specific food antibody testing and elimination diets. Placebo based testing is also available, but that can be costly and drawn out. If you are truly sick, please investigate all avenues.
This is just a brief look at steps you can take to increase your knowledge and awareness of your health. Understanding your testing options can help you to better care for and protect yourself by taking your routine doctor visits to the next level. While you shouldn’t become a raging hypochondriac, I would rather you be seen as paranoid and careful in order to live the longest and happiest life you possibly can.