Many men struggle with making small talk with their doctor during an annual exam and often want to leave the exam room as soon as possible. However, the yearly physical provides a valuable opportunity for men to speak with their doctor and advocate for their health. Despite being 24 percent less likely than women to visit a doctor within the past year, men should not be hesitant to discuss their health concerns with their doctor.
By asking specific questions, men can improve their healthcare and quality of life.
To facilitate smooth and effective communication with healthcare providers, men should consider asking the following 12 questions to ensure their health is being adequately monitored.
- Several members of my family have had heart disease and cancer. What risk factors increase my chances of developing these diseases?
A doctor can use family medical histories to predict potential health risks and suggest more frequent or earlier screenings for specific conditions. For instance, if there is a significant family history of colon cancer, regular colonoscopies should begin before the recommended age of 50.
Heart disease can stem from genetics or family history, which should be discussed with a doctor. However, all men are at risk of heart disease, especially if they smoke, are overweight, don’t exercise, make unhealthy food choices, or have a stressful life. To monitor men’s health, regular screenings for high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia can help detect potential problems early on.
- Are there any shots I need to update?
Staying current with vaccinations is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing illnesses. It would be best if you considered getting an annual flu shot, a tetanus booster every ten years, and any other vaccines that align with your risk profile, such as hepatitis B, shingles, HPV, or updates on vaccines like measles. Your doctor can recommend which ones you should get.
- What annual tests do I need?
During an annual physical examination, a doctor will conduct blood tests, check blood pressure, and perform a testicular exam. The tests will be personalized based on the patient’s medical history, family health history, age, and any concerns the patient may have. This will help determine which routine medical tests are necessary and when they should be performed.
- How often should I be regularly screened for prostate cancer?
There has been a lot of discussion regarding how often and at what age men should be screened for prostate cancer. According to the American Urological Association, men should start getting a yearly screening at the age of 50, which includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam. However, for men with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men at a higher risk for the disease, the PSA test can be started annually at 40.
- I’m urinating more than usual. Is this a problem?
As men age, urinary frequency can become a common issue, often due to an enlarged prostate known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This condition affects about half of all men between the ages of 51 and 60, and up to 90% of men over 80. If you are experiencing frequent urination, discussing the issue with your doctor is essential. Type 2 diabetes can also cause frequent trips to the bathroom, but a simple blood test can help diagnose this condition if present.
- My sex drive is not like it used to be. What could be causing this?
If a man experiences a decrease in sexual desire, it may indicate low testosterone levels. This male hormone tends to decrease as men age, but other factors such as chronic illness, medication, low thyroid hormone levels, or stress can also contribute to reduced libido. Men need to discuss this issue with their doctor and undergo a screening to check testosterone levels.
- I haven’t exercised for a long time. Should I take a stress test before working out?
Every man must prioritize their health by incorporating an exercise program into their routine. However, if a man has a high risk of heart disease, it’s best to consult with their doctor before starting any exercise regimen. The doctor may suggest a stress test involving walking on a treadmill to monitor the heart’s response to exertion. Typically, men are advised to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of their workout over time.
- Am I overweight, and how do I tell if I am?
To determine if someone is overweight, a simple and inexpensive method is calculating their body mass index (BMI). This uses their weight and height to estimate their body composition, enabling a doctor to identify their weight category. However, there are instances where BMI may not be an accurate indicator, such as in the case of male athletes with significant muscle mass or elderly men with diminished muscle mass.
- I’ve been having pain in “fill-in-the-blank” lately. Should I be concerned?
When it comes to your health, there are no foolish questions. It is essential to consult with a doctor if you are experiencing any discomfort, such as aches, pains, or even unusual lumps or growths. While it could be a minor issue, it may also be a sign of a more serious problem. It’s always better to ask and find out for sure.
- I like to drink alcohol throughout the week – how much is too much?
Men need to be truthful about their alcohol intake, as it significantly impacts their overall well-being. Their honesty can assist doctors in assessing their susceptibility to various illnesses or conditions. Men’s recommended limit is having no more than two drinks per day. Men who exceed this amount may be struggling with alcohol addiction and should consult with their doctor on strategies to decrease their consumption.
- From the tests you’ve done, what is my diagnosis?
Undergoing tests or procedures can be worrying. After receiving the results, a man must ask his doctor for the diagnosis. If a disease is detected, it’s imperative to ask about the next steps, whether further tests or treatment are necessary, what options are available, where to find more information about the condition, and the prognosis. These questions can help a man stay informed about his health and feel more in control.
- When do I need to come back?
Most health insurance plans will pay for an annual preventive exam. If a man is in good health and his test results are normal, his doctor will tell him when to return. The frequency of visits to the primary care doctor will depend on the man’s family health history and any current health conditions he may have.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.