Men could be better at making small talk with their doctors during medical appointments. However, once in the exam room, most men are ready to leave as soon as they have arrived, anxious to finish the visit. Yet, these visits are a man’s opportunity to open up to their doctor. It is their time and chance to advocate for themselves, leading to better health care. It is not the time to clam up, barely asking any questions regarding their health.
Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Part of that is that men often find it challenging to discuss with their doctor what needs to be in the open. Instead, men must ask specific questions that can make a difference in their healthcare and quality of life.
12 questions men should ask for better health care
To help ease the transition into good, productive conversation the next time a man sees his healthcare provider, here are 12 questions all men should bring up to stay on top of their health:
- Several family members have had heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. How do I know if I’m at risk?
Family medical histories help a doctor determine future health risks and sometimes may be a reason to recommend earlier or more frequent screenings for specific conditions. For example, if there’s a strong family history of colon cancer, regular colonoscopies should start earlier than the recommended age of 50.
A significant risk factor for heart disease can be a strong genetic or family history that is important to share with the doctor. But, all men are at risk of the disease. Particularly if a man smokes, is overweight to obese, refrains from exercising, make unhealthy food choices, and has a stressful life. So, again, early and more frequent screenings for heart disease, such as regular checks for high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia, can help monitor a man’s health status to discover potential problems.
- Are there any shots I need to update?
Keeping up-to-date on vaccinations is an essential part of preventative health maintenance. Some of the more common shots a doctor will recommend are an annual flu shot, a tetanus booster every ten years, and then any additional vaccines based on a man’s personal risks profile, such as getting a hepatitis B vaccine, shingles vaccine, HPV vaccine or any updates on vaccines such as measles vaccine.
- What annual tests do I need?
Part of an annual physical will almost always include a series of blood tests, a blood pressure check, and a testicular exam. A doctor will personalize testing based on a man’s personal and family medical health history, age, and any concerns a man may have. From there, it can be determined what routine medical tests are necessary and when.
- How often should I be regularly screened for prostate cancer?
Much debate has been on the frequency and when to begin screening men for prostate cancer. The American Urological Association recommends yearly screening with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam for men at age 50. However, the PSA test can also be started annually at age 40, especially for men with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men at a greater risk.
- I’m urinating more than usual. Is this a problem?
Urinary frequency can be a common issue for men as they age. A common reason is when the prostate enlarges, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). About half of all men between the ages of 51 and 60 develop it, and up to 90% of men over 80 will have it. Any man experiencing frequent urination needs to address the issue with his doctor. Type 2 diabetes can also cause frequent trips to the bathroom. 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?
A reduced libido usually signals low testosterone levels. Many men, as they age, will experience dips in their levels of this male hormone. Other causes for low sexual desire can include chronic disease, medications, low levels of thyroid hormones, or stress. Therefore, a man needs to mention this problem to his doctor for a screening to check his testosterone levels.
- I haven’t exercised for a long time. Should I take a stress test before working out?
Starting an exercise program is vital for any man to achieve good health. However, if a man has a high risk for heart disease, he should talk to his doctor before starting an exercise routine. They may recommend a stress test that involves walking on a treadmill to monitor the heart and how it responds to exertion. Usually, most men will be advised to start slowly, gradually working up to a more vigorous exercise regimen.
- Am I overweight, and how do I tell if I am?
The easiest and cheapest way to tell if anyone is overweight is to measure their body mass index or BMI. BMI uses your weight and height to estimate a person’s body makeup to help a doctor determine what weight category a person falls into. However, there can be situations where using the BMI may not be an accurate measurement – men who are athletes with a high amount of muscle mass, making their BMI reflect a higher weight category or older men who have lost a lot of muscle mass.
- I’ve been having pain in “fill-in-the-blank” lately. Should I be concerned?
When it comes to health, there are no wrong questions. Anything bothering a man, such as an ache or pain, to feeling or noticing an unusual lump or growth, should be brought to a doctor’s attention. It could be minor but also indicate a more concerning problem. Unfortunately, unless a man asks, he may never know.
- I like to drink alcohol throughout the week – how much is too much?
Men should be honest about the amount of alcohol they consume as it does affect their long-term health. Their openness about alcohol consumption can help a doctor determine a man’s risk for certain illnesses or diseases. The standard drink recommendation for men is to consume no more than two drinks daily. Men who are over-imbibing could have a drinking problem and should seek help from their doctor on how to reduce the amount.
- From the tests you’ve done, what is my diagnosis?
Having tests or procedures done can be concerning. However, once the results are in, a man must ask his doctor what diagnosis was found. If a disease condition was spotted, then questions such as what do we do next, are further tests or treatment needed, what are my choices, where can I get more information on my condition, or what is my prognosis, can keep a man informed on his health status making him more knowledgeable and in control.
- When do I need to come back?
Many health insurance plans cover the cost of an annual preventive exam. If test results are within normal limits and a man is in good health, his doctor can inform him when to return. Depending on a man’s family health history or any current health conditions he may already have will determine the frequency of when to see his primary care doctor.
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.