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6 Questions Men Should Ask Their Doctors

August 11, 2016

Going to the doctor is an important part of maintaining overall health and wellness. Unfortunately, as we too often see, getting men to step foot into a doctor’s office is like pulling teeth. 

Even if you think you’re too busy, visiting the doctor can help you avoid health issues before they become more serious. And whether or not you need convincing to get a checkup, it’s important to go to the doctor prepared — and that begins with asking the right questions. If you don’t know where to start, here are six questions you should ask your doctor.

What Screenings Do I Need?

Chronic diseases become more of a health risk as you age, so it’s critical to focus on preventative care. Along these lines, the number one question patients should ask their doctor is: “what health screenings do I need?” Men over 50 should be regularly screened for prostate and colon cancer, especially if they have a family history or other risk factors such as smoking or obesity. You also should test your blood sugar (every three years), blood pressure (every two years) and cholesterol (every five years).  If you are at risk for osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened for this condition. Just like when you buy a new car and you get an owners manual, we would do the same on that first visit – get you a basic “maintenance” schedule for your health. 

Is My Nutrition on Target?

During your annual checkup, your doctor also should calculate your BMI, or body mass index. BMI uses your weight and height to measure your body fat. Unfortunately, most Americans have a BMI of 25 or above, which puts them in the overweight (BMI of 25-29) or obese category (30 or above).

Eating a balanced diet filled with whole grain, fruits and vegetables and lean protein is a good practice for everyone to follow, but as you get older your nutritional balance becomes even more critical. Getting enough calcium can strengthen your bones, while consuming enough vitamin D, fiber and potassium can reduce your risk of heart disease. Also pay attention to your salt and saturated fat intake. Too much consumption of these two things can jeopardize your heart health and put you at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney stones and other chronic conditions. 

Am I Exercising Enough?

Proper diet only is one piece of the puzzle. Getting enough exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of disease. For optimal heart health, The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week or at least 25 minutes of aerobic activity three days a week (walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling) along with muscle-strengthening activity (weight training) at least two days a week. You don’t need to run a marathon or participate in an Ironman competition to be physically active, you just need to get moving. Regular physical activity as you age will improve your balance and flexibility, which can help to prevent slips and falls as you get older. Before you begin an exercise regimen, ask your doctor how much and what type of physical activity is right for you. This will reduce your risk of injury and ensure you’re doing enough to maintain a healthy weight. 

I’m Urinating Too Much and Getting Up at Night. Should I be Concerned?

Some patients often come into our office and ask whether frequent urination is normal. Some of them even may get up multiple times at night to urinate, which interrupts their sleep. For the most part this is normal: According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, about 65 percent of people age of 55 and older reported getting up several times at night to use the bathroom.

Consuming too much caffeine or alcohol can lead to frequent urination, so cutting back on these beverages may solve the problem. Other causes may include an enlarged prostate, overactive bladder, nerve issues and certain medications. There’s no way of knowing the underlying cause for sure unless you visit a doctor, provide him or her with relevant information and undergo any necessary diagnostic tests. 

Am I at Risk for Heart Disease?

If you have several family members who have had a heart attack or another form of heart disease, it’s critical to understand your risk. If you smoke or are obese, this also elevates your risk. 

Talk to your doctor about your family history and your lifestyle. Your doctor then can assess your risk and provide you with preventative guidance to improve your overall health. In some cases, we even may have you undergo a stress test to see how well your heart functions during physical activity. Doing this test could help us determine if you have a blockage that may lead to a heart attack, and if we catch this early it could save your life. 

Do I Only Need to See a Primary Care Doctor?

As you get older, you may need to see multiple doctors for your health care needs. Some older adults see a geriatrician, who coordinate their care between multiple doctors. You also should see an eye doctor every year to get your vision tested, an ear doctor to check your hearing and visit a dermatologist to check for signs of skin cancer. If you regularly see your primary care doctor, he or she also can refer to a specialist if you have a specific health issue. A good primary care doctor should always be your gateway to all these other specialties. 

Guys, there’s no excuse not to see a doctor — and even when you do it’s critical to be actively engaged in your health care. Ask questions, seek your doctor’s advice and speak up if you feel something is wrong — no matter how embarrassing the problem may be. Prevention is so important when it comes to your health, so avoiding the doctor altogether or not being honest about what’s going on isn’t in your best interest.