People generally have no more than 10 or 15 minutes with their doctor, a brief period during which he or she needs to make an assessment and deliver a diagnosis. To make the most of that time, experts say people need to come prepared with a list of concerns -- and that they also need to say exactly what's on their mind.
"Both women and men need to persevere more when it comes to the questions they ask their doctors," Dorothy Foltz-Gray, an AARP.org contributor, told Huff/Post50.
Foltz-Gray has researched the topic extensively, speaking with a wide range of doctors, and recently gave Huff/Post50 a list of questions women over 50 should ask.
Now she's come up with a similar list of questions for men.
"In general, the most important advice from the doctors is to advocate for yourself -- and to prepare for doctor appointments as you would for any important meeting," she said. "Go prepared with questions and concerns. We are, in that sense, the most important caretakers."
And so, according to Foltz-Gray, here are five questions every post 50 man should ask his doctor:
1. How often do I need screenings for prostate cancer?
"This is controversial because a lot of men are being over-treated for prostate cancer. An elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) test can occur simply because of aging, not just from prostate cancer. And prostate cancer is very slow growing. So a man needs to talk with his doctor about how he will handle an elevated PSA: It can lead to a biopsy, and then if there’s cancer, to removal of the prostate or radiation therapy, both of which can lead to erectile dysfunction. Many doctors are now recommending watchful waiting with a repeated PSA test every six months," said Foltz-Gray.
2. How often do I need screenings for blood pressure?
"Men over 50 need annual physicals that include blood pressure and cholesterol readings. To many of us who head to the doctor’s regularly, blood pressure readings may seem frequent. But men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, Maryland. And although 68 million people have high blood pressure, more than half don’t have it under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control. What’s interesting too is that doctors advise that you write your reading down because blood pressure is somewhat relative: If your normal pressure is 90 over 60, and then it’s 130 over 80, that’s more alarming than it would be if your normal reading is 120/80 (the norm for most people)."
3. I’m not feeling as vital as I’d like. Could something be wrong with my sexual health?
"Doctors agree that men have got to speak up about these matters even though they are uncomfortable doing so," Foltz-Gray said. "The doctor may test testosterone levels, and if they are low, recommend testosterone. If the problem is an inability to have an erection, the doctor may recommend an oral medication like Viagra, or even a vacuum erection device (which sounds pretty medieval but I gather it works). Most interesting, however, is that the answer may be a diet: If a man is obese and loses weight, he may feel friskier and have an easier time with erections."
4. I’m not sleeping well. Any suggestions?
"According to the CDC, 50 to 70 million adults have trouble sleeping, and 36.5 percent of people 55-65 fall asleep unintentionally during the day at least once a month. One potentially dangerous sleep problem that affects 18 million Americans -- and more men than women -- is sleep apnea, a pause in breathing while asleep. Your doctor may go over good sleep habits -- limiting caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and large meals close to bedtime; rising and going to sleep at the same time every day; and not exercising in the hours right before bed. For sleep apnea, he may suggest these changes, plus losing weight (sleep apnea is more common in overweight people), sleeping on your side or even a kind of sleeping mask that can help you breathe while you sleep."
5. So, now that we’ve discussed my problems, what’s my diagnosis?
"According to the doctors that I spoke with, many patients leave their doctor’s office still feeling confused, even scared about what’s wrong with them. Press your doctor for an answer, and if he can’t give one, ask how you can get more definitive information. And if you have a specific fear -- like cancer, for instance -- tell your doctor. He may be able to reassure you that at least it’s not cancer."