Giving and getting information are two important steps in talking with your doctor. The third big step is making decisions about your care.
You will benefit most from a treatment when you know what is happening and are involved in making decisions. Make sure you understand what your treatment involves and what it will or will not do. Have the doctor give you directions in writing and feel free to ask questions. For example: “What are the pros and cons of having surgery  at this stage?” or “Do I have any other choices?”
If your doctor suggests a treatment that makes you uncomfortable, ask if there are other treatments that might work. If cost is a concern, ask the doctor if less expensive choices are available. The doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.
Here are some things to remember when deciding on a treatment:
Doctors and other health professionals may suggest you change your diet, activity level, or other aspects of your life to help you deal with medical conditions. Research has shown that these changes, particularly an increase in exercise, have positive effects on overall health.
Until recently, preventing disease in older people received little attention. But things are changing. We now know that it’s never too late to stop smoking, improve your diet, or start exercising. Getting regular checkups and seeing other health professionals such as dentists and eye specialists helps promote good health. Even people who have chronic diseases, like arthritis  or diabetes , can prevent further disability and, in some cases, control the progress of the disease.
If a certain disease or health condition runs in your family, ask your doctor if there are steps you can take to help prevent it. If you have a chronic condition, ask how you can manage it and if there are things you can do to prevent it from getting worse. If you want to discuss health and disease prevention with your doctor, say so when you make your next appointment. This lets the doctor plan to spend more time with you.
It is just as important to talk with your doctor about lifestyle changes as it is to talk about treatment. For example: “I know that you’ve told me to eat more dairy products, but they really disagree with me. Is there something else I could eat instead?” or “Maybe an exercise class would help, but I have no way to get to the senior center. Is there something else you could suggest?”
As with treatments, consider all the alternatives, look at pros and cons, and remember to take into account your own point of view. Tell your doctor if you feel his or her suggestions won’t work for you and explain why. Keep talking with your doctor to come up with a plan that works.
Exercise is often “just what the doctor ordered!” Exercise can:
Many doctors now recommend that older people try to make physical activity a part of everyday life. When you are making your list of things to talk about with your doctor, add exercise. Ask how exercise would benefit you, if there are any activities you should avoid, and whether your doctor can recommend any specific kinds of exercise .
Start exercising with NIA’s exercise and physical activity campaign, Go4Life®, developed specifically for older people. See how to stick with a safe, effective program of endurance, stretching, balance, and strength-training exercises. Visit www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life  or call 1-800-222-2225 (toll-free) for information about the health benefits of exercise  and physical activity, along with activities you can do to stay fit.
Tips: Evaluating Health Information Online
Many people search online to find information about medical problems and health issues. However, not all health information on the web  is of equal quality. How do you find websites that are accurate and reliable? The following questions may be useful to consider when you look at a health-related website.
Don’t forget to talk with your doctor about what you’ve learned online.