Having a primary care doctor, such as a family doctor or any medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), is an important aspect of overall health maintenance. This is because your primary care physician—often referred to as the “quarterback” of health care—knows the most about your health and family history, the medications you take, and any surgeries or procedures you have had.
Your primary care doctor is also the one who leads the team if you need to see a specialist for care outside of the primary’s expertise. As people get older, it’s common to have more doctors to visit and medications to manage. It is especially important for seniors to have a primary care doctor who oversees all of their care and can help ensure all health decisions are well informed.
When you make regular visits to your primary care doctor, he or she will discuss your overall health with you and answer any questions or concerns you have about your health. Your annual visit will also include checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other vitals, to see if there are any changes and to catch problems early on. Your doctor will also be in tune to your age and stage of life and can make necessary screening recommendations, such as for colon cancer or osteoporosis, as well as suggest any immunizations you might need.
If you have an existing condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, your primary care doctor helps monitor your condition, manage your medication, and can guide you on ways to maintain optimal health.
To prepare for your primary care visit, be sure to:
- Bring a list of questions or concerns
- Share your family medical history
- Find out about screenings for your age and health condition
- Discuss any unhealthy lifestyle behaviors you have
- Review your medications as well as nutritional supplements
- Discuss advance care planning (e.g., living will and health care power of attorney)
Ultimately, your primary care doctor is someone who knows you and your health history, and is able to provide you with personalized care and expert guidance when you need it.