Doctor Recommends Patients be Prepared with Questions at their Annual Check-Up

Author: Sherry Farney

It’s important to see a primary care or family medicine physician for an annual health exam each year, but some of us are unaware there are vital medical questions we should be asking while we are there.

Suma Thomas, DO, MPH, a McLaren Flint family medicine specialist, recommends patients write down questions before going to their appointments to make sure they are receiving a comprehensive exam. Here are five key questions she suggests patients ask and why:

What is my cholesterol level and why is it good or bad?

When your body has too much LDL cholesterol, it can build up plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. As your blood vessels build up plaque over time, the insides of the vessels narrow. This blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause chest pain or a heart attack. Testing annually helps your physician provide you with a plan to lower your cholesterol if necessary in order to avoid this.

What is a good diet and exercise plan for me?

“Many patients follow fad diets and then wonder why weight bounces back once they stop the diet,” said Dr. Thomas. “Certain diets and exercise plans may not be advised for an individual depending on what underlying pathologies or diseases the patient may have. It’s best to talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise plan that fits your individual needs.”

How much caffeine should I drink a day? Is diet soda better? According to Mayo Clinic, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That's roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two "energy shot" drinks. Too much caffeine can lead to negative side effects such as jitteriness, headaches, insomnia, irritability and muscle tremors. Also, diet soda isn’t always the better choice. “Diet does not always mean better as the "fake" sugar has its own negative implications,” said Dr. Thomas.

Which vitamins are good for me to take? Many people are taking more vitamins than necessary, especially if they take vitamins on top of taking a daily multivitamin. “Excess vitamin intake can cause its own problems in terms of kidney/liver injury, so more isn’t always better,” Dr. Thomas said.

How do I know if my mental health is ok? “Lots of patients are shy about mental health and a lot of physical ailments could potentially have an underlying psych component, so it’s important to address any mental health concerns with your physician,” said Dr. Thomas.

If you are in need of a primary care physician, a list of doctors accepting new patients can be found at