Men’s Health Week
Did you know it’s Men’s Health Week? If you’re a senior man, these are the important questions you need to be asking your doctor.
Taking care of yourself should include a yearly medical checkup, especially once you reach age 65. Even if you feel fine, it’s important to have a blood pressure check, cholesterol screening, and any other tests your doctor recommends. While you’re there, asking the right questions can improve your health over the year ahead.
First things first: specific health concerns
Doctor appointments are typically short, so if you have a particular concern like a lump, a sleep problem or a change in energy level, ask about that first. Don’t assume that your doctor will notice your problem on his or her own, and don’t be afraid to ask “awkward” questions. Your doctor has heard and seen it all before.
Questions about tests and prevention
When your doctor recommends a test or procedure, ask what it’s for, how you should prepare, and what the results might mean. This is important for blood draws, which may require fasting, and glucose tolerance tests that can take a few hours.
In some cases, your question may be about a test you’re not getting. For example, the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test for prostate cancer used to be a standard yearly screening for men over age 50. Today some medical groups, including the National Institutes of Health, no longer recommend routine PSA screening for men without symptoms, due to the risks associated with false positives and treatments. Ask whether you should have the test based on your health history.
If you’re 65 or older and your doctor hasn’t recommended a screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm, ask about it, especially if you’ve ever smoked. The test looks for weak spots in the aorta that are more common in older men, smokers, and people with high blood pressure. A rupture can cause anything from weakness to severe pain and death, so detection and treatment are important.
If you’re sexually active or plan to be, ask for the latest infection-prevention recommendations. Seniors have one of the fastest-growing rates of sexually transmitted infections of any age group. Since the year 2000, rates of chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea infection have all more than doubled among people over 65.
What to ask after a diagnosis
When your doctor puts a name to your health issue, he or she will try to answer your questions about treatment, self-care, and how often you’ll need to follow up. For minor issues this information may be plenty. For a major diagnosis like diabetes or cancer, ask your doctor to recommend resources like books and websites so you can learn more about managing your condition. It can also be helpful to ask what sources your doctor recommends you avoid, so you don’t distress yourself unnecessarily or fall prey to unproven treatments.
Any time you get a prescription, ask your doctor to tell you the name of the drug, the dose, what it’s for, how it might interact with your other medications, and what side effects to look out for. As an added proactive step, ask your pharmacist those same questions.
In good health? Ask this question
Asking health questions when you’re healthy may seem pointless, but it can help you maintain your winning streak. Ask your doctor if your exercise, diet, and stress-management habits could use some improvement. You may find that your doctor wants you to walk more, try meditation, cut some salt out of your diet, or something else. Or your doc may think you’re doing just fine. The only way to know for sure is to ask.