Optimal Timing for Screenings, Appointments and Medications

By Gordon, Sandra

If you've ever bought a coveted pair of shoes at a sale price or cashed in a stock just before the price took a dive, you know the difference good timing can make on your quality of life.

But, of course, it goes way beyond money. Get your timing right, and you'll whiz through waiting rooms at doctor's appointments. Your medications will work their best. You'll improve the accuracy of screening tests. You might even save your own life or that of someone you love.

Here's a rundown of the best times to do certain health-related tasks that can make your life safer and saner, and give you added peace of mind.

Vitamins

The best time to take a multivitamin: at mealtime. Gulping one down with a meal such as breakfast not only maximizes absorption, but minimizes the potential for stomach upset.

"We're designed to absorb our nutrients from food," explains Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

On a practical note, you may be more likely to remember to take a multivitamin if you take it with meals or, even better, with the same meal each day, he says.

Pharmacies

The best time to get prescriptions filled: after the first week of the month. According to a recent study in Pharmacotherapy, the journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, fatalities from medication errors rise by as much as 25 percent above normal in the first few days of every month. That's when pharmacy workloads spike -- as do mistakes in filling prescriptions -- because those on government assistance tend to purchase their medications then, bombarding pharmacies across the nation.

Routine dental care

The best time to schedule dental checkups: February. That's when dental offices are typically slow, so go then and you'll save waiting-room time. The busiest month is December, when patients scramble to maximize their dental insurance benefits before the New Year; summer is also busy, because offices fill up with kids and college students. Mondays anytime of year also can be hectic because dental offices tend to fill up with emergency holdouts from the weekend.

Annual checkup

The best time to schedule your annual physical: April. Spring is an ideal time for routine appointments such as a yearly physical. Generally, the flu season is waning and doctors may not have begun to take vacations.

Donating blood

The best time to give blood: July. Although donated blood is needed year-round, inventory tends to dip in July, when many Americans take vacations. That's also true around the holidays and during the winter months, when inclement weather may keep potential blood donors homebound.

Flu vaccine

The best time to get a flu shot: late October or early November. Flu cases tend to peak in February. Getting the flu vaccine in October or November gives your body time to build immunity and protects you in case outbreaks hit early in your area. The vaccine's protection takes just 10 days to fully kick in and lasts six to eight months, says Bonnie Hebert, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Colonoscopies

The best time to get your first colonoscopy: at age 50. This is the age when most people are advised to get their first colonoscopy, but if you have a family history of colon, breast, ovarian or endometrial cancer, all of which put you at increased risk for colon cancer, it's best to start 10 years before the age the youngest member of your family was diagnosed, says Edward Chu, M.D., professor of medicine and pharmacology at the Yale University School of Medicine.

For example, if your relative was diagnosed with colon cancer at 46, you should start getting screened with a colonoscopy at 36.

Medical Reviewer: [Akin, Louise RN, BSN, Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN, Lambert, J.G. M.D.] Last Annual Review Date: 2011-02-27T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

Did You Know?

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Women ages 19 to 50 need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. Younger women and women older than 50 need even more.