When we go to buy a new device, appliance, or vehicle, we typically have a list of questions that we must get answered before closing the deal on that purchase. Yet, for those of us that do visit the doctor, at least annually for a physical examination, we show up unprepared, anxious, and without any clue as to what questions or concerns we should have for this visit. Unfortunately, we men put more thought and time into what we are going to eat or drink while watching televised sports than we do when it comes to our visit to the doctor. It’s scientifically proven that women are three times more likely to visit the doctor than us men, and we men know that women know how to cross exam the doctor like he’s on trial for murder.
So, where and how do you start the conversation with your doctor at your next annual visit? Like most people nowadays, we get our quick medical consult from Dr. Google. By typing in a few keywords or symptoms into the google search box, and magically we have arrived at a diagnosis. Now, the accuracy of that information should always be received with a raised eyebrow, given that any fool can upload realistic-looking fake medical information to google. I wish I could say that this is the case, but unfortunately, a lot of people run with the first batch of information provided by their quick google search, which can be the quickest way to the grave.
Before I delve into how to engage your doctor in fruitful medical dialogue, check out this extensive list of questions to ask your doctor outlined by The Cleveland Clinic. I also encourage men, including myself, to invest the same amount of time and energy that we devote to social media updates into being engaged in your medical visit and involved in your annual physical exam.
Your date with medical destiny is tomorrow. Now what should you bring to this visit and what questions should you ask?
If you are taking medications for chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure, please bring the bottles and/or list of the medicine name, dose, and frequency for the continuation of your care.
Either write it down or bring someone with you (wife, girlfriend, or mother) who can clearly articulate your medical and surgical history to the doctor.
If you’ve had labs drawn from a previous doctor’s visit and just happen to have a copy of those labs, please bring it with you to share with your new doctor and to serve as a baseline for your lab values.
If you’ve had any imaging or procedures (x-rays, CT scan, MRI, colonoscopy, biopsy) please bring a copy of this report to your visit to help facilitate the continuation of your care.
If you’ve had labs drawn prior to this appointment please ask the following questions:
Are the labs normal or abnormal?
What are my risk factors?
What signs and symptoms should I be looking for?
Do I have a medical condition or is it secondary to something else?
PLEASE ask for a copy of the labs for your own personal record because they are your labs and your property. (Always keep a personal medical file on yourself just in case you decide that this is not the doctor for you. It will make seeing your next doctor that much easier).
6. If medication is being prescribed, ask about alternative therapies (diet, lifestyle changes, and prescribed therapies) along with generic medications for the diagnosed condition. Don’t forget to inquire about the medication side effects, precautions, and potential interactions with other commonly ingested foods, beverages (alcohol), and exposure to sun.
7. This is where you speak up for yourself and advocate for age appropriate screening 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s (prostate / colon / breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, cholesterol) based on your family history and evidence based medical recommendations.
8. Please schedule any follow-up visits immediately as you leave the office for this visit. Be sure to look at your calendar on your phone and pick a date/time that works for you. This provides a higher likelihood for you returning to the follow-up visit, instead of letting the staff pick the appointment, which inevitably will not be on a day or time that is convenient for you, giving you the justified excuse needed to not (or never) come back.
Speaking from the category of tried and true, we men typically do all that we can within our power to avoid going to the doctor at all costs! Even if this means allowing your friend who was a medic in the Army 20 years ago, who currently works in oil and gas and hasn’t done anything medical since retiring from the Army, attempt to stitch up a minor (likely major, given that we under estimate damage) laceration to your forearm. We are willing to risk it all to avoid seeing the doctor and it’s this unfortunate characteristic that causes most of our premature deaths.
Most of us will work 40 to 50 years on a given job and build up a sizeable nest egg for our retirement. Sadly, in that time, we have either consistently or intermittently ignored our health, which will cost us dearly. Upon reaching that golden horizon, now comes chronic symptoms from obviously neglected health, that now compromises your retirement from a career filled with wonderful memories of time spent with your work family. Now, your new job in retirement becomes seeing this specialist this day, having that procedure tomorrow, and paying several co-pays today, which quickly erodes that nice nest egg, slowly destroying the hopes of an active, travel filled, worry free retirement.
We must take care of our health so that we can be here for those who depend on us the most!
And remember, it’s easier to stay well, than it is to get well! #PryorityMale
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Your in Health and Wellness,
The Men’s Health NP
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