Making the most of your GP check-up

Tips on what to consider when you next visit your GP.

Whether you’ve got a GP appointment booked for that niggling cough or an annual general health check-up on the horizon, here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit.

Different people, different check-ups

If it’s been a while between visits to your GP, book yourself in for a general health check-up. GPs often run preventive health checks relevant to your age and gender. These are designed to identify whether you have a greater chance of developing a disease in the future, and to screen for diseases in their early stages. 
“There is no one-size-fits-all check-up,” says practising Bupa GP Dr Gillian Rawlings.
“A check-up for a healthy 20-year-old woman is going to be very different from that for a sedentary 55-year-old male with a family history of heart disease. In both cases medical history is important – previous health problems, diet, alcohol, smoking, physical activity and family history.
“In a 20-year-old female, checking if she is sexually active and needs to be screened for chlamydia, contraception issues, physical activity, weight, mental health issues and drug use is important. It is unlikely she will need a barrage of blood tests.
“In a 55-year-old sedentary male, [measuring] blood pressure and girth, and [having a] discussion about eating habits, physical activity and alcohol use would be the focus. Checking lipids and blood-sugar levels would be very important, as this patient is at risk of early cardiovascular disease.”
lady having blood pressure taken

Considerations for your check-up

There are plenty of ways you can help to make the most of your check-up. Dr Rawlings offers the following tips.
Before the check-up:
  • Tell the receptionist if you need a longer visit so they can try to schedule appropriately.
  • Bring a list of any medications you take, including vitamins or supplements.
  • Find out as much detail about your family history as possible. For example, saying “My mother had cancer in her 40s” is not enough. If you can, find out what type of cancer, whether any other family members have been affected and what treatment they received.

During the check-up

  • Mention any particular symptom you are worried about – don't leave this until the end.
  • Be honest about drinking, smoking and drug use.
  • Have realistic expectations. If you have a long list of questions or concerns you may need more than a single visit. It is usually not possible for a doctor to be thorough and quick. Let the receptionist know when booking your appointment that you need more time, or, if you don’t get through everything on your list, ask your doctor when would be a good time to reschedule. 
  • Don't have an expectation that your GP will send you for lots of tests. These are often not needed, may cause a lot of unnecessary expense and can be associated with further unnecessary tests and even harm. Appropriate, targeted tests can be very useful; shotgun ‘let's test everything’ tests may not be.  

Inform yourself

If you’re unsure about something that your doctor says in the check-up – a diagnosis, side effects of a medication or details about the type of tests they are sending you for – don’t be afraid to ask questions or get them to explain it to you again. Your GP is there to help.
Aim to make a check-up with your GP a regular part of your general health routine, and make the most of it while you are there.

Bupa Medical

GP clinics are just one of the many Bupa health services accessible to everyone.

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