Men’s Health Month: A look at your health and when it’s time to see the doctor
June is Men’s Health Month and the perfect time to take control of your personal health. If you haven’t already had or scheduled an annual wellness visit with your doctor, there’s no time like the present to get it on the books.
Before your scheduled appointment, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the most from your visit when the day arrives:
- On the day of your appointment, bring a list of your current medications, including any over-the-counter supplements you’re taking.
- Come with detailed notes of your medical history, especially if you’re seeing a new doctor. Be sure to mention any current concerns you may be having.
- Prepare to be honest with your doctor. It’s important for him or her to know you and any symptoms you may be experiencing to provide you with the best possible care.
- Ask your doctor which preventative screenings he or she recommends for your age and health history, like testing for prostate and colon cancer.
- Ask for any needed medication refills before you leave the office.
- Get ahead of the game and schedule next year’s annual wellness visit before you leave.
Now that you’ve prepared for your wellness visit, let’s take a look at a few ways beyond regular checkups for getting – and staying – in good health:
- Make a habit of eating a colorful diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
- Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.
- If you smoke, stop smoking now. Smoking can lead to a number of health conditions such as emphysema and lung disease. Ask your doctor if you think a prescription to help you quit would benefit you.
- Do your best to get a good night’s sleep. Adults ages 18 to 64 should get seven to nine hours each night, while those 65 and older should plan on sleeping between seven and eight hours each night.
- Be sure you’re up to date on your immunizations. Not only will this help prevent you from getting sick, but you will also drastically lower the chance of spreading any infection to other people.
Health symptoms you shouldn’t ignore
Most of us know that severe chest pain, heavy bleeding or a broken bone, requires quick medical intervention. What many don’t realize is that other symptoms like unexplained weight loss, trouble urinating, or excessive snoring can also be causes for concern.
It’s important to visit your doctor regularly and when you experience symptoms that may point to something more serious than a stomach bug or the sniffles. If you suspect something isn’t quite right, it’s important to let your doctor know – or seek emergency treatment at your nearest emergency room if necessary. Be sure to keep an eye out for the following:
- Sudden weight loss. If you’re not intentionally trying to lose a few pounds, weight loss can be a cause for concern. Unexplained weight loss is often one of the first signs of serious illness, including cancer. It’s very important to see your doctor if you’re losing weight unintentionally.
- Shortness of breath. Many things can cause shortness of breath. The most common causes are pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Sometimes, however, shortness of breath – especially when it comes on quickly – can be caused by conditions including asthma, carbon monoxide poisoning, excess fluid around the heart, heart attack, heart failure, low blood pressure, collapsed lung, upper airway obstruction, or a blood clot in an artery in the lung, among others. If you’re having shortness of breath and suspect that something isn’t right, get medical help right away.
- Frequent urination. Possible causes for this include infection of the bladder or prostate gland, enlarged prostate gland, or diseases such as diabetes and some types of kidney failure, which increase production of urine. Frequent urination should be discussed with your doctor for further evaluation.
- Constipation. If you’re having fewer bowel movements lately, it may just be a change in your daily routine like a diet low in fiber, new medication, dehydration, or lack of exercise, all of which can delay the impulse to get things moving. Constipation, however, can be triggered by certain problems with the colon or rectum, or blockage of the intestines. Your doctor can test to uncover the root cause, many of which can be treated.
- Frequent heartburn. If the burning sensation in your chest occurs more than twice a week, you have difficulty swallowing, experience nausea or vomiting, call your doctor. These may be a sign of a hiatal hernia.
- Excessive snoring. This issue isn’t just an annoyance to those within earshot of you while you slumber. Excessive snoring – generally caused by some sort of obstruction in the air passage – can sometimes be the result of more serious health problems, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and sleep apnea.
Philip Miller, DO, is a family medicine provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group.