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No Excuses: Why Regular Checkups Are an Important Part of Men's Health

Healthy Lifestyle
Published: June 24, 2020

 

For many men, visiting the doctor just isn’t very high on the list of priorities.

Some feel healthy enough, so what’s the point? Others are too busy to make an appointment, worry what it might cost or are even afraid of what they might find out.

Any of this sound familiar, guys?

You can come up with all the reasons in the world not to visit a primary care provider regularly. But here are some reasons why you should.

 

Checkup basics: What to expect

Well check. Annual physical. Health maintenance visit. A visit with a primary care provider goes by many names, and there’s a lot that can happen in a relatively short amount of time. You know the drill: height, weight, blood pressure, listening to your heart and lungs, possible lipid and blood glucose tests, and 20 questions (or more) about how you’re feeling, your diet, how much you drink and smoke, how well you sleep, if you’re stressed, your family history, and so on.

It seems routine and maybe unnecessary, but there’s a lot I can learn about you during that basic exam. I’m looking to identify current health concerns, which may or may not be obvious. Even a simple screening, like listening to your heart, can catch a more serious condition and be potentially lifesaving.

I’m also looking out for your long-term health with these screenings. For example, if together we see that obesity is a challenge, we can keep an eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose while discussing ideas for lifestyle changes that positively impact your health. We’d both rather monitor and react to these issues early, long before they become bigger problems.

 

Establishing and building your medical record

If you never see the doctor or haven’t in quite some time, all the questions the staff asks can seem like a bit much. But getting the most complete picture possible of your health history has benefits.

Your up-to-date medical record includes information about:

  • Current medications
  • Current medical providers
  • Surgical history
  • Medical allergies
  • Dates and details of your most recent preventative screenings and vaccines
  • Immediate family member medical history 

It’s worth taking a little time to familiarize yourself with your family’s history. Knowing that certain medical issues – like heart disease, diabetes or colon or prostate cancer – are common in your family benefits you and your doctor. For example, I might:

  • Recommend earlier screenings to identify conditions
  • Form a treatment plan to decrease the chances of developing a disease
  • Recommend diet or lifestyle changes to reduce the risks of developing certain conditions

Armed with your previous medical record when you visit, I can quickly update anything that’s new and then focus on what’s most important for your health.

 

Continuity of care matters

Don’t let that little bit of medical-speak turn you off. Regularly seeing your primary care provider isn’t about both parties checking a box. A big part of continuity of care is building relationships. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for significant health changes when we meet – and that’s easier with regular appointments – but some things don’t show up on a computer screen. 

My hope is that a strong foundation with a primary care provider pays dividends when things might not be going so well. I want you to be comfortable calling the office when you have a suspicious mole or something doesn’t feel quite right. I want you to say what’s on your mind during an appointment instead of ignoring or brushing aside a concern. I want you to understand the medical system and feel comfortable and confident if you need services beyond what I can provide.

Not to mention: I just want to get to know you. Like most doctors, I love meeting and helping people. I may find that something is wrong when you visit, but I’m committed to working with you to find the best solution for your situation.

 

Vaccinations aren’t just for kids

Your well check is a good opportunity to talk to your provider about vaccines and get caught up if you’re not. Vaccinations aren’t always top of mind for adults, but there are few to keep in mind.

Flu: Getting immunized is the best way to avoid influenza. Flu viruses mutate each season, so everyone 6 months of age and older should get a vaccine each year.

Tdap: The Tdap vaccine can protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It’s recommended that adults have the vaccine, then a booster every 10 years.

HPV: Nearly everyone will get one strain of human papillomavirus in their lives. The HPV vaccine is approved for adults up to age 45 and protects against nine common HPV virus strains as well as oral and genital warts. It also decreases the risk of many cancers.

 

More than just your physical health

Your mental health is a big part of your overall health picture. I ask those questions about your mood and stress level because it’s all connected. In primary care, we often wear many hats and can serve as a coach, counselor, friend or mentor depending on your circumstances. I may be able to provide something as simple as stress management techniques or ideas for improving your exercise or sleep habits. I’m also able to prescribe medication in some situations or refer you to counseling services. Just like with physical health challenges, I’m ready to work with you to form the best treatment plan for you.

 

When to make the call

How often should you see the doctor? There is no one-size-fits-all answer for what a “regular” checkup is. It depends on your age, your family history and any conditions you have. 

But it’s not an answer you have to come up with on your own. A Methodist primary care provider would be happy to talk to you more about your health goals and a visit schedule that works for you. 

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Shane Stephenson

About the Author:

To provide exceptional care, Dr. Shane Stephenson believes it is crucial to build a relationship based on honest and open communication. Every person has fears about his or her health, and his mission is to address every concern in order to form an accurate diagnosis. Listening also allows him to learn about the person’s job, habits and personal issues, further allowing him to find the root cause of a problem.

Dr. Stephenson went on to complete medical school at the St. Louis University School of Medicine. He later completed his residency training at Mercy Medical Center. Today, he is a family medicine doctor at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest.

See More Articles by Shane Stephenson