5 questions your doctor wants you to ask
There is a common belief that men avoid the doctor at all costs, especially the dreaded annual exam. But according to a poll by Hearst Media, the parent company of men’s health, three in four men (75 percent) have visited a doctor in the past year. This figure rises to 80% for men over 35 and 84% for those over 55.
Not bad guys! Seeing a health care provider (HCP) regularly is essential to maintaining good health and detecting any serious problems early. But you also need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your exams, which means asking the right questions and bringing any symptoms of concern to your doctor’s attention. “Doctors can’t guess exactly what’s bothering you, and we can’t help you unless we know what’s going on,” says Daniel Kiss, MD, cardiologist at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Need help opening up to your doctor? Here are five questions primary care physicians recommend asking during your next annual exam:
1. “What can I do to prevent future health problems?” »
This is a good open-ended starter question that will get your doctor talking about healthy lifestyle behaviors as well as testing or screening for common illnesses in men your age. Remember that the purpose of an annual checkup is not just to discuss what is wrong, because in many cases, especially if you are still relatively young, you may not have any problems treble. “Any good doctor should also talk about prevention and what you should do to stay healthy in the future,” says Dr. Kiss.
Think of it as an icebreaker. After talking broadly about your health, it’s time to get more specific. And what better place to start than your heart?
2. “What can I do for my heart health?”
Maybe it came up with the first question you asked. If not, focus on your ticker as soon as possible, because heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, with men being slightly more at risk than women. By asking about this, you invite your doctor to talk to you about your risk and assess your current cardiovascular health. Specific issues a doctor can address: “Is it time to get your cholesterol checked, should you be screened for diabetes, or should you be worried about high blood pressure?” says Niket Sonpal, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Touro College of Medicine in New York. Your doctor will likely order a blood test to assess these and many other risk factors, as well as to check your blood pressure.
When discussing your heart health, your healthcare professional is likely to ask you questions related to your lifestyle. When this happens, be honest about how much you exercise, how often you drink a drink (or four), and whether or not you smoke, even if only occasionally. These three areas in particular are major risk factors for cardiovascular health. “From a doctor’s perspective, we can only trust what you tell us, and you’re only hurting yourself by faking your answers,” says Dr. Sonpal.
3. “Can we talk about my family history?”
Your parents and grandparents didn’t just influence where you grew up and which sports teams you root for. They also have a big impact on your health (not to mention your hairline). “Before your appointment, ask your parents what they know about illnesses that run in your family or what older relatives have died of,” says Dr. Kiss. “For example, did your grandfather die of a heart attack at 49 when he was the picture of health? It is a risk factor for you to also have coronary artery disease.
Note that he said “risk factor” and not “death sentence”. It’s important to know what diseases you may be genetically predisposed to, whether it’s a certain type of cancer, heart disease or type 2 diabetes, so you don’t stress yourself out, but to be able to take preventive measures to avoid these conditions. Share with your doctor any health issues that occur in your family, and the two of you can come up with a plan to reduce your risk.
4. “Can I tell you about a change I noticed recently during sex?”
As embarrassing as it may be, you should immediately report any sexual health concerns to your doctor. “Lower sexual function is associated with other issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, or side effects from medications, so be open and talk to your doctor if you think it’s more difficult to have a erection or maintain it,” says Ernst von Schwarz, MD, a Los Angeles-based cardiologist. “Not only can your doctor help you treat erectile dysfunction, but they can also determine if it’s a sign of another problem.”
If the idea of talking openly with your doctor about sexual matters scares you, you may want to find a new doctor. “Your doctor is supposed to be your advocate and your life coach,” says Dr. Sonpal. “They are there to help you achieve your goals, not to judge you.”
And if it’s not the doctor but the subject that makes you uncomfortable, try following our script and asking the above question verbatim. “No one wants to admit there is a problem, but it’s much easier to say there was a problem. changesays Dr. von Schwarz.
5. “Do I need this medicine or is there something else I can try?” »
Sure, a prescription can help with any given problem, but always ask if there’s a non-drug approach you can take first. “Don’t be afraid to ask about alternatives,” says Dr. von Schwarz. “For example, a statin can help with high cholesterol, but so can lifestyle changes like diet and exercise. I’m not against statins. I prescribe them daily, but there are other things you can do before taking a lipid-lowering pill, which can have side effects, and lifestyle changes will ultimately improve overall cardiovascular health at the same time.
This advice also applies to other common risk factors, including high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Before jumping straight into diabetes medications or beta-blockers, honestly assess your activity levels, food intake, and alcohol and tobacco use and discuss all treatment and prevention strategies with your doctor.