We women are all too familiar with the "annual exam," but are we intentionally engaged in the process, or are we simply showing up? Developing a collaborative relationship with your primary care provider (PCP) and asking important questions are important keys to optimal health. Here are three questions to consider asking your PCP if you are age 35 or older.
1: How is my Thyroid?
Thyroid dysfunction is one of my most undetected illnesses women face today, namely because it is not regularly tested or discussed during a general physical. Symptoms of an underactive or overactive thyroid (i.e. weight gain/loss, hair loss, irritability, fatigue, and lack of sex drive) often mimic those of other health issues. Therefore, these symptoms may not consistently be associated with thyroid issues. Worse, it is possible to have thyroid hormone irregularities with none of the obvious symptoms.
Thyroid hormones regulate vital body functions, including metabolism, heart, and digestion. So, getting proper, accurate testing should be a regular occurrence. While there are a number of blood tests that help determine thyroid function, the three main tests you should discuss with your PCP are TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3. Ask your PCP about these tests, whether they're covered by your insurance, if you need them, and how they impact your metabolic health.
#2: How is my weight?
It is no secret obesity is a major issue in the United States, but one thing that isn't always considered is the inaccuracy of the current BMI chart. Talk with your PCP about your specific body weight, body fat, body mass index, and lean body mass to determine if your weight is, in fact, ideal for your body type and size.
The BMI estimates the amount of body fat based on height and weight, but this test does not distinguish between fat and muscle, different types of fat, or where excessive fat may be in the body. The BMI chart is appropriate to use as a general reference point, but because it doesn't consider or apply all the data, it can't appropriately determine your overall health and wellness.
#3: What preventative measures should I take based on my family history?
It's never too late to be proactive when it comes to your health and wellness. As we get older, our bodies go through drastic hormonal, emotional, and physical changes. Women today are busier and hold more responsibilities than ever before. That is precisely why it is so critical to address any potential risks or concerns preemptively. Talk with your PCP about your family health history (particularly if you have heart disease or breast cancer in your family history) and your personal medical needs and find out what you can do to proactively to ensure you live a long and healthy life.