Making the most of your doctor’s visit means going in with the right knowledge and a list of informed, sensible, constructive questions. Here, then, are 9 tips you can use to help your doctor help you. And just for fun, each tip comes with its “Bizarro World” counterpart: what you shouldn’t do!
1. DO: Ask your doc to check your waist size
No, it’s not your pant size. Waist size is measured around your belly button. If it’s higher than acceptable (generally over 38 inches) it is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke because it can show an accumulation of fat inside your belly or visceral fat, which is more dangerous than fat in other places.
DON’T: Try to guess your doctor’s waist size. Repeatedly.
2. DO: Ask about your blood pressure
Blood pressure is a partial measure of how stiff your blood vessels are, and is a changeable, lifestyle-related factor for heart and stroke. For many people with mild to moderate high blood pressure, losing as little as 5 or 10 pounds can normalize things.
DON’T: Attach the blood-pressure gauge’s velcro strap to your moustache. Trust me on this.
3. DO: Know your family history
If available, it’s incredibly valuable. There are a number of potentially life-shortening or altering conditions that doctors can screen for and prevent before they cause significant trouble — but only if they’re aware of what to watch for.
DON’T: Impersonate Peter Griffin from Family Guy.
4. DO: Discuss your alcohol intake
Guidelines suggest a maximum of three drinks per day for men, but don’t save them all up for the weekend. That’s a lot of calories, and if you drink in the evening it’s tough to burn them off. Try alternating each beverage with a big glass of water.
DON’T: Have those three drinks during the exam.
5. DO: Quit smoking!
While moderate drinking may have some health benefits, only bad things come from smoking. The good news: Your doctor has both prescription and non-prescription options that can help.
DON’T: Continue smoking!
6. DO: Ask about your Testosterone levels and PSA
Testosterone is the male hormone that contributes to strength, stamina, work and athletic performance, psycho-emotional health, cognitive function, sex drive and erectile function. It starts to decrease around the age of 40. Having a baseline test around this time isn’t a bad idea. If you’re not feeling yourself in any of these areas, it’s worth getting checked.
PSA is a chemical that is produced by your prostate. While there are a number of things that can elevate PSA, prostate cancer is one of them. Certain groups are at higher risk for prostate cancer, including men with a family history, Canadians of African descent, and men with an elevated PSA under age 50. Consider checking your PSA and your prostate, beginning at age 40, if you’re considered high risk, or at age 50 if not.
DON’T: Again, if a prostate exam is required, do not pull a Peter Griffin…
7. DO: Ask about your cholesterol and your Hemoglobin A1C
Cholesterol is a measure of the fats in your blood, and is one of the changeable, lifestyle-oriented factors relating to heart disease and stroke. Cutting down on fat in your diet — by choosing salad as a side dish instead of fries, for instance — is a good start. There are different types of cholesterol in your blood, some healthy, some unhealthy, and exercise can improve the ratio of good-to-bad. Another good start: Taking the Pledge!
Hemoglobin A1C, meanwhile, is a measure of how high your blood sugar has been over the past three months, and is used for diagnosing diabetes.
DON’T: Feel embarrassed about asking any of the questions on this list. It is a GP’s job to listen without judgement and offer solutions and treatment.
8. DO: Break a sweat getting to the clinic
Doctors recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week at a pace that makes you feel like you’re rushing to catch a bus.
DON’T: Prancercise to the clinic. Unless, of course, it really catches on…
9. DO: Take the YouCheck.ca Survey and print off your results to discuss with your GP
This innovative health awareness tool asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle, and then assesses the risk of developing seven of the most common diseases and conditions among Canadian men. This provides the perfect starting point for asking questions that apply to your specific health profile.
DON’T: Take the “Which Kardashian Are You?” survey