In my work as a naturopathic doctor and as a registered nurse, I encounter many patients that do not understand not only the medications they are on, but also supplements they have been prescribed.
If you want the best care for yourself, and I know you do, you need to have agency over your health and treatment plan. You need to ask questions.
Here are the top 8 questions you need to ask when prescribed any treatment plan:
1. What is the purpose of the proposed treatment?
You need to know WHY you are being recommend something. This can help you to understand your current state of health and how to monitor progress. For example, if we are treating your high cholesterol with a supplement or medication, you need to know the impact that elevated cholesterol has on your health, otherwise why even treat it?
It’s also important to feel that your treatment plan is aligned with your health goals and values. We play a very important role in your health care, providing you with the necessary information required for you to make an informed decision. Afterall, you get to choose how you want to be treated. When patients don’t understand why they are taking something, they are less likely to stick with the plan.
As practitioners we see the bigger picture and what WE would like to see for your health, sometimes causing us to recommend treatments that have a cost to you. If your treatment is not aligned with your health goals than you need to speak with your doctor about this.
2. What are the risks and benefits of treatment?
Most treatments will have some level of risk to them along with benefit, and this is key in helping you decide on a treatment approach. If the benefit outweighs the risk and it is aligned with your goals and values then this may be the treatment for you. But excessively avoiding risk can cause you more harm and reduce your quality of life. For example, because of the results of a large study on hormone replacement therapy for women that reported a risk of breast cancer, many women were pulled off treatment and denied further treatment for their hot flashes and night sweats due to it's misinterpretation. In actual fact the risk for breast cancer for many women was quite small and being prescribed hormone replacement therapy at the appropriate time (before the age of 60) provided significant relief, not only for hot flashes and night sweats, but also bone and cardiovascular protection.
3. How does it work?
It isn’t necessary that you know all the biochemistry and pharmacology of a treatment, but having a basic understanding of how something works to address your concern, or condition can also help you to understand possible side effects and monitoring you may need. For example, it is important for patients who are on a certain type of blood thinner called coumadin, to know that it blocks vitamin K dependent clotting factors. This is why patients on this medication need to maintain a consistent diet of green vegetables or avoid them due to their high vitamin K content.
4. When should I expect results?
This is one of the most important factors in supporting patients to stick with a treatment plan. You need to know a timeline to expect results. Drugs tend to work fast, supplements may take longer, could be months. Are you willing to stay the course? If you don't know when to expect results, you may give up on an effective plan prematurely. There are no quick fixes and there are always costs to treatment.
5. How will I know the treatment is working?
This may be determined by how you feel, changes in blood work, or both. You also need to know the magnitude of benefit. Some treatments may help minimize symptoms to a level you are comfortable with, but knowing that a treatment may or may not completely resolve your symptoms or condition is critical to keeping a realistic perspective on what is possible.
6. What is the cost of treatment?
Costs could be financial. Supplements may be required long term and can be expensive. If you are not able to stick with it then perhaps a medication covered by a drug plan may be a better option for you to reach your health goals. Taking something multiple times a day may or may not be a burden to you. If it is and that is required to achieve results then this is not the treatment for you.
7. What if it doesn't work?
It is important to know that you have options, and knowing that there is a plan B and C can help you stay positive and motivated about your health situation. There is no one-size-fits-all approach with medicine. There are treatments that will be gold standard to treat certain symptoms or conditions, but sometimes medicine requires a little trial and error as well.
8. What if I do nothing?
This may be a viable option for you. You need to know the benefits and risks of delaying treatment. In the short term, this may be okay but waiting too long to take action may cause collateral damage in the future that may or may not be reversible. If you want to feel better and improve the state of your health and prevent disease, this is likely not aligned with your goals. You need to have a strategy and understand the tactics to employ. Reach out for support.
Be curious. Ask questions.
Disclaimer: The information presented on this site does not constitute medical advice and does not replace the advice from your doctor. Always consult a qualified health care professional when changing or beginning a new health plan.
Click the link below to learn 5 critical ways to reduce your risk of a heart attack in just 5 days. And it's FREE! or book your FREE Discovery Call Now.