Are you an active participant in your own health?

The best way to treat medical conditions is to prevent them in the first place. And one of the best ways to prevent them? Regular medical checkups.

But simply visiting the doctor regularly won’t necessarily do the trick. It’s important that you have a complete understanding about what’s going on with your health. This includes things like how often you need to visit the doctor and what medications to take, but there’s more to it than that.

Read on for four tips that can help you take a more active role in your health.

  1. Find a physician or other medical provider who you trust. This step is perhaps the most important. You need to feel comfortable and have a good rapport with your medical provider.

When searching for a new doctor, you certainly want to look at his or her credentials and experience. But it’s also key to determine whether you’re a good match. To do this, use your first appointment as a “getting to know you” trial.

Ask however many questions you need to gain a sense of comfort with the doctor. If something just doesn’t feel right about the provider, you aren’t obligated to continue seeing him or her. You may need to visit a few physicians before you find the right fit.

  1. Be honest. Your doctor or nurse practitioner can’t make a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan without knowing the true facts about your health and lifestyle. Medical providers are bound by privacy laws that prohibit them from sharing your information with others outside the context of your health care.

So, when it comes to information that can help them fully understand your health, it’s important to tell the truth. You’ll want to give an accurate representation of your medical history, the medications you’re taking (including prescription and over-the-counter), your lifestyle habits and your family medical history.

  1. Come with questions — and ask them! If you have questions about particular symptoms or any other facet of your health, write them down as they occur to you and bring them to your appointment.

While you’re at your appointment, it’s also important to make sure you fully understand what your provider is talking about. Ask your doctor to tell you in layman’s terms what you need to know about your diagnosis, treatment and any upcoming tests.

If you don’t understand, keep asking questions until you do. Your treatment plan will only be as good as your understanding of it. If you can’t follow it correctly, it won’t help.

  1. Bring reinforcement. If you’re visiting the doctor for complicated treatment or a diagnosis, you may find it helpful to bring a family member or friend along.

It can be especially difficult to ask questions and keep track of health information when you’re upset or scared about a potential diagnosis or treatment. Having another person along who can help you advocate for your health is important.

He or she can help you understand the diagnosis and the plan of care.

Still looking for the “right fit” in a medical provider? Find a physician here.