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“Annual checkups help prevent disease. Being prepared for your visit can help avoid stress and ensure a successful visit.”

The roles mothers and fathers play in raising their children have begun to converge. But, women are still considered to be natural nurturers.

In fact, 66 percent of caregivers are female. While there is a lot of debate over whether this phenomenon is due to societal constructs or genetics, there’s one point that’s irrefutable:

You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

I originally wrote this post during National Women’s Health Week, a time when women are educated on the importance of taking care of their health. But, it's something that should be on our minds all year.

The best place to start? Scheduling your annual wellness exam.

Annual wellness checkup – sounds exciting, right? I mean, who doesn’t like going to the doctor and getting poked and prodded?

If you’ve picked up on my sarcasm, then you likely understand the uneasiness most people feel about visiting a doctor. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of tips to help you prepare for your annual checkup.

But first, let’s talk about why annual exams are so important.

woman talks to her doctor about women's health


Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!

Annual exams are often called preventative visits. That’s because the whole point of the visit is to catch early symptoms of diseases and other health issues so that they can be easily treated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, seven out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The majority of chronic diseases can be avoided or at least caught early enough to be treated successfully, with proper preventative screenings. In fact, according to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, as many as 100,000 lives could be saved each year through preventive care services.

Still need some convincing? Let’s compare your body to a car.

Without regular tune-ups and proper maintenance, your car is not going to last as long as it could. After years of neglect, parts are going to start to break down until, eventually, the car is not drivable.

Like your car, your body needs regular health maintenance to prevent it from breaking down.

Stronger Physician-Patient Relationships

Seeing your doctor regularly not only improves your chances of preventing and treating diseases, it also helps build a stronger relationship between the two of you.

You’re probably wondering why having a relationship with your physician is important. The answer is this:

It’s your doctor’s responsibility to guide you to better health, but not everyone’s path to better health is the same. Treatments should not only be determined by your health status - they should also be shaped by your life, values and attitudes. The more you see your doctor, the better he or she will be at understanding these things.

So, if yearly well-woman visits help prevent diseases and build the relationships necessary with your doctor to receive adequate care, why aren't women getting them?

doctor checks woman's blood pressure


One in four women say they don’t visit the doctor because of the cost. But, did you know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all major medical plans to cover an annual wellness exam at no cost?

If you don’t have major medical insurance because you can’t afford the premiums, but you want to see a doctor, consider short term health insurance. You can get coverage for as little as 30 days and up until a year. Monthly premiums are usually about half the price of major medical plans.

If you’re worried about the cost of seeing a doctor, remember that the sooner you catch a chronic disease or other health issues, the cheaper and easier it is to treat. Wait too long to treat and you could end up with catastrophic medical bills.

Cost isn’t the only thing holding women back from getting wellness exams. Many people, men and women alike, avoid getting regular checkups because they simply don’t like the doctor.

Being appropriately prepared can help take away some of the stress and anxiety you have over going to the doctor. Follow the steps below to learn how you can prepare for your next annual exam.

woman speaks to her doctor about her test results


The average doctor visit is only 13 to 16 minutes. It’s important to be prepared so that you can take advantage of that short time. Even more importantly, you want to be prepared so that you don’t forget to mention anything.

Take the following five steps to ensure that you’re prepared for your next annual exam so that you have a stress-free and efficient visit.

#1. Review your medical history

Are there any changes in your medical history that you should mention to your doctor? What about to your family’s medical history? Your doctor will want to know whether family members suffer from, or have died from chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes.

#2. List your medications

Write down all medications you take or have taken in the last year, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, nutrition or diet aids and herbal supplements.

#3. List recent treatments

Your doctor will want to know the dates of any treatments or surgeries, as well as the doctors or healthcare providers that treated you. Include any test results that you received.

#4. Gather your questions and concerns

Create a list of what’s worrying you the most. Make sure to include any physical or emotional difficulties you’ve been experiencing. Most importantly – don’t forget to list the questions you’d like to ask your doctor.

#5. Be prepared to take notes

Remember to bring something to take notes with. You can even bring someone with you who is willing to take notes for you, or at least act as a second pair of ears.

Make sure to take notes on the following:

  • Answer to your questions
  • Directions for medications
  • Results of tests taken in the office
  • Instructions for out-of-office tests
  • Explanations of new or existing health conditions

In conclusion, annual checkups or wellness exams can help prevent chronic illnesses by detecting them early, when treatment is more effective (and less expensive).

Whether or not someone depends on you to take care of them, making your health and wellbeing first priority is a good practice for everyone. But, oftentimes it’s something that gets pushed down to the bottom of the priority list.

We encourage you to make your health a priority by scheduling an overdue checkup and following the steps outlined above to ensure you’re prepared.

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