One of the most underutilized benefits you receive when you first sign up for the Medicare program is a Welcome to Medicare health visit. This is a one-time preventative trip to your primary care physician or health care provider that is fully covered by Medicare insurance. The visit is only available during the first 12 months after you first enrolled in Medicare, so don’t miss out on this completely covered preventative meeting.

During the Welcome to Medicare meeting, you’ll undergo a number of tests and screenings designed to get a sense of your general health. This can include vision, blood pressure, and mental health checks, along with noting your height, weight, and other health factors. You may also receive vaccinations if you need any. All this is done to help your doctor develop a personalized health plan to keep you healthy and try to prevent as many health problems as possible. To make your visit as beneficial as possible, there are a few ways you can prepare in advanced.

Any Personal Health Concerns

Prior to attending your Welcome to Medicare meeting, you should sit down and brainstorm any health or medical concerns that you’ve been having. It doesn’t need to be as specific as “I anticipate needing a knee replacement in five years,” though these observations are great if you have them. Instead, try to point out things like “my knees hurt when I bend them,” or “I get headaches every day.” These are general health concerns that may point to deeper issues that your doctor should know about.

This isn’t a time to be embarrassed or think something is too small. The more details you can provide, the more your doctor has to work with when developing your preventative health plan. It’s better to give your doctor more than they need than to leave something out that seems small but actually points to a much more serious problem.

Diet Questions

Another factor of your health that often gets overlooked is your diet. If you check out our Diet section, you’ll know that health and what you eat often go hand in hand. While you don’t need to give a day-to-day rundown of what you eat, having a general idea of what your meals look like could be helpful for your doctor. This is especially the case if you’re overweight since diet is the first place to look when losing weight. At the same time, if other health factors need improving, your doctor may prescribe a specific diet, like the Mediterranean diet for heart health.

Your Medical History

While your primary care physician should have your medical records on hand, it pays to gather as much past medical information that you can get your hands on. If you haven’t been going to this doctor for a long time or it’s a new doctor, this is even more important. This should include any medications you are currently taking, even over-the-counter and nutritional supplements. You should also bring a history of any surgeries or major health conditions you have or have had. These details can be essential to building an accurate health plan for you, especially the medications since you don’t want any surprise interactions.

Family Medical History

Your family medical history is equally important to drawing up a thorough and accurate preventative health plan. While their health is not specifically your health, there are genetic traits that you share that can mean you’re both predisposed to specific conditions. For example, if someone in your family was diagnosed with prostate cancer, your chances of also developing it greatly increase. Since early detection of conditions like this is so important, knowing your family medical history is essential to your health plan developed during your Welcome to Medicare meeting.

To get your family medical history, your best bet is to work directly with your family. Get up to three generations of family members to be thorough. A family medical history should include various medical conditions that family members have (along with the age they developed those conditions), mental health diagnoses (including addictions), and lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise routines and smoking and drinking tendencies. You should also include deceased family members, the age they passed away, and the cause of death. This may seem like a lot, but there are resources out there, like the CDC’s My Family Health Portrait, to help keep things organized. It can also be used by everyone in your family, so it can be worthwhile to compile for everyone’s sake.

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Did you miss anything at your Welcome to Medicare visit? Don’t stress over it too much! While you won’t have another Welcome to Medicare appointment, you’ll still get an annual wellness checkup with your doctor that is effectively the same thing but focuses on carrying out the health plan you developed in the Welcome to Medicare visit. By being prepared for your Welcome to Medicare visit, you can start off your coverage on the right foot with a well-thought-out wellness plan developed by your doctor with you in mind.

Having a health plan in place can help you to live your life in the healthiest way possible, possibly preventing future health conditions before they even develop. At the very least, by coming prepared and giving enough information, you and your doctor will know what to watch out for in the future, spotting problems early on so you can begin treatment. Whether you’ve caught something early or prevented it entirely, the Welcome to Medicare visit plays an influential part, along with the follow-up annual wellness appointments, designed to keep your personalized plan accurate and up to date.