SUNDAY, Aug. 8, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Admit it, you've probably put off doctor visits whenever possible during the pandemic, and getting back on track with your health care is a daunting prospect.
Never fear, says an expert who offers some advice on resuming in-person health care visits.
The first step is to push aside any shame about falling behind on regular appointments, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association (AHA).
"Stress took a toll on all of us, and our lives and routines were turned upside down. There's nothing to be ashamed of here," Lloyd-Jones said in an AHA news release. "The key is — let's move forward together."
Leading up to your appointment, start measuring and documenting body metrics such as your daily weight, blood pressure (if you have a home blood pressure cuff) and blood sugar levels (for those with diabetes), he suggested.
"Even if it's been a while since you've tracked your body metrics, providing recent measurements will help your doctor determine if there have been significant changes," said Lloyd-Jones, chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.
Make a list of questions before your appointment and create an action plan with your doctor on how to achieve health goals, but set realistic objectives.
"Keep in mind that small, consistent habits can add up to big changes over time," Lloyd-Jones said.
If you have any new physical or mental health symptoms, don't wait to see your doctor, he advised.
"New chest pain symptoms in particular are always a red flag," Lloyd-Jones said. "That's something we want to know about and see you about ASAP."
It's also important to see your doctor immediately if your medications don't seem to be working as well as before, or if you can't afford them.
"Our goal, like yours, is to make sure you're getting the care you need to live your longest, healthiest life possible," Lloyd-Jones said.
If you don't have a primary care provider or if unemployment has reduced your access to health care, resources like Federally Qualified Health Centers and Community Health Centers can help, he added.
Fortunately, far fewer Americans are still putting off health care visits because of the pandemic.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted between June 23 and July 5, 2021, showed that 19% of U.S. adults reported delaying or not getting medical care in the prior four weeks because of the pandemic, compared with 45% in the same period last year.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine outlines how to make the most of your doctor visit.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Aug. 4, 2021