All You: Taking Care of Your Whole Self

Dr. Benjamin Mojica | 4/12/2011, 4:37 p.m.

It seems that every month women are being told to go for a test or screening to avoid one disease or another. There are Pap smears and colonoscopies. In May, when we celebrate Mother's Day, women are reminded to take care of their breasts by having a mammogram. This approach may be useful, but it also makes us think of health care one body part at a time.

A better approach to health care is to promote total wellness. We still undergo all the medical tests and screenings for cancer and other diseases, but we do so as part of taking care of our whole selves.

As women head off to the doctor, it's a good idea to plan this visit well. Plan to discuss

personal and family health histories with the doctor. Ask how to lower risk for diseases, inquire about laboratory tests and other procedures, and ask about what vaccinations you need and when to get them. With your doctor or medical practitioner, plan an overall strategy to remain in good health.

Here is a checklist for your visit.

1. Ask the doctor how you may reduce your risk for diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer. Talk about your personal and family health history. Based on this information, the doctor may be able to recommend steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing these diseases.

2. Keep a record of your test results. Ask the doctor or nurse for the results and write them down in a notebook. Include your blood pressure, vaccines, current weight and any medications you are taking. Bring this notebook with you every time you go to the doctor. This will also help you plan for the next visit to the doctor.

3. Write down questions for the doctor. There is nothing more frustrating than having to call the doctor back because you forgot to ask something.

4. Ask about your next appointment. See the doctor for a regular checkup once a year, whether you are sick or not. The goal is total wellness, and there is nothing like a regular and periodic visit to the doctor to help us achieve it.

Being healthy and remaining healthy is a joint effort between patient and doctor. You can do your part by planning your visit to the doctor and keeping an eye on your total health.

Dr. Benjamin Mojica is the senior assistant vice president of community health promotion and public health services for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.