When it comes to your health, there are no dumb questions.

You’ve seen the doctor, received a diagnosis and discussed a plan for moving forward. But are there other things you can do to take charge of your health?

Yes! Two family medicine physicians, Sharon Orrange, MD, associate professor of medicine, and Rose Taroyan, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, offer questions to help you start a conversation with your doctor.

1. Can I reduce the dosage on my prescription medications or stop taking them entirely?

Because your health and habits change, medicine prescribed for ongoing or past medical conditions may no longer be applicable. Bring a list of the medicines and dosages prescribed from all the doctors you see to your appointment so that your primary care doctor has a complete picture of your health.

But “don’t suddenly reduce your dosage or stop taking medications without talking to your doctor first,” cautions Dr. Taroyan. “Some medicines have potential side effects if stopped quickly, but with the help of your doctor, they can be adjusted as needed.”

2. What should I be doing to improve or maintain my health?

Practicing a healthy lifestyle is the best way to care for yourself. Both Dr. Orrange and Dr. Taroyan recommend the following:

  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Limit or reduce alcohol consumption
  • Practice safe sex
  • Stop smoking
  • Get in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week

3. What changes should I make in my lifestyle based on my age and habits?

“Go Mediterranean,” Dr. Orrange says. Studies show that this heavily plant-based diet will reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as Alzheimer’s Disease.

She also recommends standing as much as possible. “Sitting is the new tobacco,” she says. “And mind your gut. There is increasing evidence that gut microbiome and the genes therein have an impact on our health.”

4. What’s next in my care plan?

If you are sick or have an ongoing condition such as knee pain that requires surgery, having a clear, defined plan for moving forward empowers you to take charge of your health. It also helps you manage your schedule if you need to miss work or arrange for care.

“Always ask your doctor questions regarding your care and participate in the decision-making collaboratively so that your care is tailored to your specific needs,” Dr. Taroyan says.

5. Am I up-to-date on my health tests and shots based on my age and health?

Immunizations, screenings and other routine care are normal for children yet often overlooked in adults. According to Dr. Orrange and Dr. Taroyan, check with your primary care doctor to make sure you have the latest immunizations for influenza, HPV and TB.

There are also screenings for obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), diabetes, cervical cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and abdominal aortic aneurysm for certain patients.

6. Can I get a copy of my records?

You have a right to receive copies of all your medical records. When making a request, your doctor’s office will require you to sign a medical release form.

“When patients at Keck Medicine of USC enroll in the patient portal (easily completed during a visit), they have access to lab and other test results,” Dr. Orrange says. “They can also direct-message their physician.”

By consolidating your files, you will create a complete picture of your health over time.

Print a copy of these questions and take with you the next time you visit your doctor.

By Heidi Tyline King

Looking for a primary care physician who offers a holistic approach to your care? Primary care providers at Keck Medicine of USC will approach your medical concerns in the context of your physical, emotional and social environment. If you are local to Southern California and in search of a primary care physician, schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visiting www.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.