If someone asked you right now how you’re feeling, how would you answer? Outside of your doctor’s office we’re expected to answer this question with a short and breezy response. But when your doctor asks this question, the more details you can give, the better.

Both you and your doctor need to consider a range of aspects regarding your health; we often hear about the importance of staying at a healthy weight, of monitoring our blood pressure, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Other important things include regular eye and ear exams, screenings for diabetes or cancer, regular immunizations, STD testing, monitoring for changes in your moods or memory, and other specific examinations or tests related to men’s or women’s health issues.

With so many variables to consider, doctors need as much information as possible during your visits with them - the more details you can give about how you feel, the easier it will be for your doctor to figure out if you may be developing any minor or even serious health problems. You can also do your part to help track your health by actively working with your doctor to develop lifestyle guidelines to follow between appointments. When developing personalized health guidelines there are four things you should do and keep in mind before, during and after your appointments:

  • Talk to your doctor about general guidelines for people your age. Age plays a huge role in your health because of the ways it affects your body. For example, your blood vessels and heart begin to age with you, putting you at a higher risk of developing heart problems. While this is the example people think of most often, the reality is that aging affects all your major organ systems. Talking to your doctor about the health risks associated with your age group and beyond can help ensure that you’re taking the necessary steps to care for your health now and into the future.

  • Research your family’s medical history. It’s no secret that genetics can impact your health. While a family history of certain medical conditions doesn’t always definitely mean you’ll develop that condition yourself, it’s very important for you and your doctor to consider family history when developing a set of guidelines for you to live by.

  • Be honest with your doctor about things like exercise levels, diet and medications. One of the hardest things about doctors visits can be admitting things you’re not necessarily proud of, such as that you’re not exercising often or that you’re taking a medication for depression. However, it’s important to remember that doctors aren’t there to judge you – they’re there to help you, and the only way your doctor can truly help you is if you’re completely honest with where you are in your life. Look at this way – your doctor’s appointment is a chance for you to fix that bad habit that may be hurting you, and there’s no shame in asking for help with that!

  • Don’t be surprised if your personal needs don’t fit into standardized boxes. News outlets and online health articles often speak in broad strokes about health issues. But while doctors and medical professionals have established standard patient guidelines for people to follow, these generalized guidelines are just that: generalized guidelines. These recommendations have no way of including steps to address family health risks or issues that can occur when patients develop a chronic condition. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what the general recommendations for your age group are - it does mean that you should expect to add one or two items to your personalized to-do list to help ensure that you’re properly taking care of yourself.

If you want to start learning about what men or women need to do to take care of themselves at your age, you can use our website to find out the minimum recommendations for healthy individuals before visiting your doctor - just go to “Resources” and “Patient Guidelines”. But remember, this is just the beginning - your next step is to take the time to invest in your health and talk with your doctor about your personalized guidelines. You’ll be glad you did!