If you’ve ever gone to a doctor’s appointment and walked away thinking, “What the heck happened?” then you’re reading the right article. You’re about to discover a 5 steps method for taking control of your doctor visits to get the information and answers you need.

“It all starts with a fancy term called self-advocacy. This is the ability to speak up for yourself, ask for what you need and speak your thoughts,” according to Ellan Dickieson of Senior Transitions Made Simple. “While it sounds simple, it can be very difficult,” explains Dickieson.

This is especially true when you’re in an uncomfortable situation or put on the spot and not prepared. Not to mention when the doctor is rushing out the door to get to the next patient. When it comes to setting yourself up for a successful doctor visit, you are going to want to follow these 5 steps.

Step 1: Set goals for your appointment. Think about what you want to achieve during your appointment. You will only have a limited amount of time with your doctor. Knowing exactly what is it that you want to achieve during this time will help you be concise and stay focused. For example, if you’ve recently received a new diagnosis your goal may be to understand the pros and cons of available treatment options.

Step 2: Document your symptoms. It is important that you are well prepared to explain your symptoms. Include details such as the frequency, intensity, location, and type of pain. The more detailed information and history that you have, the quicker your doctor will be able to complete an assessment, make a diagnosis. Keep a daily journal of the symptoms that you are experiencing and bring it with you to your appointment. The doctor may wish to make copies to attach to your personal file.

Step 3: Prepare to voice your questions and concerns. We’ve all been in the situation where the doctor asks, “Do you have any more questions?” and we reply, “No”. By the time we get home, we have 5 new questions in our mind but have missed the opportunity to ask them. To avoid this situation, write down any questions and concerns you might have. Remember, no question is a dumb question. Bring the piece of paper with you and go through each question one by one. Be sure to take notes as you receive the answers to your questions.

Step 4: Know your numbers. Like documenting your symptoms, it is important that you know your numbers. Keep track of your vital statistics. This includes your temperature, weight, blood pressure and heart rate. If you have a specific health diagnosis, such as diabetes, you will also want to have your blood sugar levels recorded. Having these numbers will allow the doctor help you much quicker.

Step 5: Do some research. “I was on Google…” is likely the last thing that any doctor wants to hear. Yet, it is important to do some homework before your appointment. Read up on your treatment, or your medication. If you choose to use the Internet to research, be sure that you are receiving your information from a creditable source. You may also have a friend or family member who is a health care professional. Chances are they would be more than happy to have a conversation with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Doing your research will allow you to ask the doctor specific questions such as, “Can we get these tests done? Then we’ll know if…”

When it comes to your health, you must be your own biggest advocate. For some of us, this may come naturally, but for others, it might cause stress and anxiety. If you need to practice using your voice start in front of the mirror. It can also be helpful to ask a family member or friend to go with you and be your advocate. Remember, your health is your wealth!