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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!
Guest blogger: Sarah Smith - CHSS Cardiac Coordinator
July 3, 2016
Visiting the GP can sometimes be a daunting experience - especially if you feel that you don't have enough time to ask all of your questions or want to discuss more than one concern that you have. Get the inside scoop on how to make the most of your next appointment with our top tips from Guest Blogger Sarah, CHSS Cardiac Coordinator (and previous Practice Nurse)...
1. Why? Know why you are going
I know this sounds an odd thing to say, but if you have more than one long-term health condition, this can mean multiple appointments with different health care professionals! Therefore, it is important to tell reception staff what your review(s) are for to ensure that they make the appointment with the appropriate professional. If you have multiple conditions, try requesting a longer appointment so you can have multiple conditions assessed at one time. This might save you repeated visits to your GP!
2. What? What do you want from the review?
Do you want to be more active, need advice on diet, finances, mood or medication? There are numerous influences and stressors on keeping good health. Your GP practice can assist or refer you if there’s something specific that might help you to stay healthy.
3. Questions? Write your questions down
Appointments can be short and there is a lot of information that the health professional will need to ask about. It may be a GP or nurse you haven’t met before, which can sometimes be intimidating and you may feel that you have not had the opportunity to ask what you wanted. Sometimes things can be a bit embarrassing to say. Try writing questions down prior to your appointment. That way you can hand it to the health professional if you are worried and you won’t forget to ask!
4. Tests - bloods, urine & blood pressure
Your condition(s) will determine what tests you need and how often you will need them. Sometimes tests can be used to decide if you are on the best level of medication or to see that your body is functioning normally.
The more information that the health professional has at your appointment, the more helpful it will be! Sometimes you might be asked to have these tests done before your appointment - so remember to follow any instructions, for example, you may need to fast before a blood test to get an accurate result. If you have more than one condition, you may be able to request to have all your blood samples taken at the same time.
5. Honest - always be honest
Health professionals need all the facts to make the best decisions on how to help you to manage your health. If some results or symptoms have deteriorated there may be a reason for this: Have you been taking your medication? Are you still smoking? Are you not as active as you had hoped? Do you drink alcohol? For example, there may be no need to increase medication, if really you just forget to take the tablets most mornings. Discuss your concerns or side effects as there may be other options available. The decision to do this is yours. You are responsible for your own health.
6. Symptoms - know your symptoms!
Many people are unaware of what their triggers are for making symptoms worse, or what symptoms to monitor. If you are not sure of what you should be monitoring, ask your GP or Nurse. Consider keeping a diary of when symptoms occur and you may notice a pattern or be able to make a plan to avoid the trigger(s) in future.
7. Plan - can you make a plan?
Some conditions such as asthma and COPD have a self management plan to help individuals take control if symptoms get worse. Depending on your condition and what medication you are on, a plan can be a useful tool to help you to keep well. If you have a plan, bring it along to every review to make sure it is updated regularly. Have a look at the CHSS example for COPD here. Contact your GP or practice nurse to get your own individualised plan!
Self Management tools like this 'Traffic Lights for COPD' book help you to monitor and manage your symptoms
8. Other options? Discuss alternatives
There are numerous treatments, medications and lifestyle changes that can be beneficial to your health. If you are taking or considering taking alternative medication or complimentary medicine it is really important to discuss this with your GP as some complimentary therapies can affect the way that your existing medications work.
9. Lifestyle - discuss lifestyle
The importance of making positive lifestyle changes cannot be stressed enough. The main risk factors for heart disease, stroke and respiratory conditions are smoking, high blood pressure, low levels of physical activity, low social/peer support and a poor diet. We all know it is difficult to make changes. But find your motivation, choose one thing at a time and keep trying. Your health professional will be delighted to refer you and help to motivate you.
We have affiliated support groups all over Scotland. Call our Advice Line Nurses on 0808 801 0899 to see what's in your local area.
10. Contact - don’t wait!
If your symptoms get worse prior to your next review, then make an appointment. Do not delay. Remember if you are affected by chest, heart or stroke illnesses that the CHSS Advice Line Nurses are also here to help you. For confidential advice, call Freephone 0808 801 0899.
Hint: GP Practices tend to invite you for a review through letter or email. Make your appointment at a time suitable for you. If you need to reschedule don’t worry but try and give them notice.
***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.