With our network of over 71,000 top U.S.-licensed doctors, accessing doctor knowledge and expertise is incredibly easy. Our free answers, tips, and checklists have proven invaluable to over 3.3 billion people, and our doctors have helped save over 21,500 lives all over the world. We’ve taken this collective doctor knowledge to highlight the 5 main questions you should ask your doctor:
1. At my age, what vaccinations and screenings should I get?
Preventive health practices like vaccinations and screenings are key to avoiding preventable diseases and infections like measles, hepatitis, heart disease, and more. While there are many required vaccinations, Dr. Cory Annis notes that you should also opt for non-required vaccinationsdepending on your particular situation. If you do a lot of international travel, those non-required vaccinations may become a requirement. The same situational concern goes for health screenings. Some individuals may be more at-risk for certain diseases and infections, such as Hepatitis C or diabetes, so make sure to talk to your doctor about your medical history and lifestyle.
2. Given my family’s health history, should I be taking special care or attention to my health?
Screenings will help with finding preventable diseases, and early screening may be best if you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Some screening tests you may be familiar with include the cholesterol/lipid screen, the glucose screen, and the blood pressure screen. While these may seem like medical tests for an adult, internist Dr. James Underberg notes that both the National Lipid Association and the National Lung & Blood Institute recommend a cholesterol/lipid screen in high school, or even as early as age 9–11 to detect inherited or genetic cholesterol disorders (specifically familial hypercholesterolemia). Dr. Satinder Aggarwal, also an internist, says that a lipid profile done at early age can catch premature cardiovascular disease. Getting the glucose screen and blood pressure screen become especially important as you hit your 30s and 40s, as they help catch diabetes and possible heart conditions.
3. What kind of exercise should I be doing?
Whether you love the gym or hate it, staying active is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Cardiovascular exercise, or aerobic exercise, is good for your heart and lungs. Weight-bearing exercise like lifting weights or even walking is good for your muscles and bones. Overall, the intensity of your workout is less important than its regularity: 3 hours of weights at the gym twice a month won’t do as much for your health as 30 minutes of sprints twice a week. Your doctor can help you figure out an exercise plan that fits with both your medical history and lifestyle. For example, walking is considered low-impact exercise, and exercise of any kind improves heart health and helps maintain muscle strength, according to Dr. Ronald Krauser—so even walking counts!
4. What kind of food should I be eating?
This question is similar to the previous one. Regular healthy eating habits, even those as simple as eating healthy food 80% of the time and junk food 20% of the time, will go a long way towards improving the length and quality of your life as you get older. Because your metabolism slows down as you age, the saying “you are what you eat” really starts to sink in as you get into your 30s and 40s. While it may be intimidating to admit your eating habits with your doctor, being upfront and honest about your lifestyle and current diet will help your doctor work with you to find a middle ground between healthy and fun. For example, rather than eat less of many things, eat more of many things—eat more seafood, eat more colorful fruits and vegetables. According to Dr. Heidi Fowler, red fruits and vegetables have lycopene, an antioxidant that fights free radicals and helps to prevent cancer. Dr. Pamela Pappas echoes this cancer-prevention help too, saying, “These cellular effects may make it a helpful partner (not by itself) in cancer treatment. Some of its metabolites could have anti-cancer effects as well.”
5. How do I become a happier person?
Physical health may be what you see on the outside, but mental health is what you feel on the inside. A happy, healthy body includes a happy, healthy mind, so talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to feel more at peace with yourself and with the world around you. Perhaps it starts with getting more high-quality sleep, as Dr. Ranji Varghese, a specialist in sleep medicine, notes, “Good, restful sleep promotes better concentration, alertness, reaction times, and short-term memory. Sleep deprivation can affect these.” Maybe it involves being more mentally present, as psychiatrist Dr. Caroline Cribari recommends. “Focus [on] the moment: Try to gently, repeatedly focus your attention in the present moment, as that is where simple pleasures, simple sensory experiences, and opportunities to connect with others and with nature exist!” Whatever your mental health needs may be, talking to a doctor about it is the best way to start improving it!