When was the last time you went in for your annual checkup? In honor of Men’s Health Month, I want to discuss the importance of paying attention to your body and visiting your primary care physician on a regular basis. If you’re healthy, a yearly visit might be sufficient but if you have a family history of any disease, have a pre-existing condition, or have suffered an injury, you may have to follow up with a doctor or specialist more often. A doctor’s visit is as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as clean eating and consistent exercise. If you have any issues or symptoms, especially any of the below, don’t be afraid to speak up and let your doctor know.
Whether it’s a muscle ache or sharp tension, back pain can be a symptom of serious health issues. It may indicate a spinal or muscle injury, the onset of kidney stones, infection, inflammation (like arthritis) or even cancer, when a tumor metastasizes to the spine. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases recommends seeing a doctor when you have back pain after a fall or injury, prolonged pain that doesn’t subside, numbness, tingling, or back pain accompanied by other symptoms, such as trouble urinating, numbness in the legs, or unintentional weight loss.
Many men experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their lives but if this is an ongoing issue for you, it may mean there’s something else going on. Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of or are at risk for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression, all of which can affect your ability to maintain an erection.
Going to the bathroom more or less often? According to the American Urological Association, 30 percent of men have an overactive bladder. Speak to your primary care physician about any changes in your urinary habits. Frequent urination may be a symptom of prostate cancer, diabetes, or prostatic hyperplasia, where the prostate enlarges and narrows the urethra. See a urologist if you’re concerned about any genitourinary symptoms, such as noticing a weak stream of urine, difficulty starting urination, dribbling urine, or incontinence.
About a third of your day is spent asleep, which is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Snoring can be a minor nuisance to anyone sleeping near you but it can also interrupt your own sleep schedule, whether you realize it or not. It may be a sign of sleep apnea, a common but chronic sleep disorder that should be treated. When sleep apnea worsens, it puts you at risk for high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. Not sure if you snore in your sleep? Turn on a recorder and leave it next to your bed overnight and then check the recording the next day. Take note especially for periods during sleep when you stop breathing completely while snoring.
Weight Gain or Loss
Sudden or unexplained weight fluctuations may occur even when you’re not on a diet. This can be a result of an allergy, depression, thyroid imbalance, or cancer so it’s important to take note of any ups and downs and keep your doctor updated of unexpected weight changes.