40 Questions You Should Always Ask Your Doctor After 40
It's time to start advocating for your own health.
If the primary goal of your doctor’s appointments in the past has been to get in and out as quickly as possible, your 40s are the perfect time to change that. After all, while there are many healthy changes you know you could make, there are others you may not know about unless you ask. For example, now that you’re 40, you and your doctor should have a frank discussion about your family health history, your lifestyle, and much, much more.
But, in order to have those conversations, you might need to bring them up yourself. So the next time you head to the doctor’s office, make sure to ask him or her the following questions. Getting answers—and personalizing your care—in your 40s will ensure you’re feeling your best in your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
How often should I be getting checkups?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how often you should be going to the doctor, which is why it’s always best to ask. Generally speaking, most healthy people in their 40s should visit the doctor once every other year, according to Duke Health. That being said, if you require prescription medications or have any risk factors (including having a family history of certain diseases or being a smoker or overweight), you’ll probably need to head to the doc more often. Ask your doctor this question in order to come up with a personalized plan.
How’s my digestive health?
If you haven’t been feeling your best lately due to digestive issues like constipation, acid reflux, or bloating, it might be time to ask your doctor about it. As you get older and your digestive system slows, tummy issues become more common and your doctor could help you keep things on track. Since that likely means something as simple as taking probiotics or eating more fiber, you’ll be happy you asked.
How can I improve my gut health?
Your gut health plays a bigger role in your overall health than you might think—which means you might want to ask your doctor to test your gut function and nutrient status. “These tests make sure your body is in an anti-inflammatory, anti-aging state,” says Maggie Berghoff, a family nurse practitioner. “You may need to see a functional or integrative practitioner for them, as they’re much more detailed than traditional bloodwork. Regardless, let them know your interest in this area so you can be guided in the right direction.”
Does my family history factor into my health?
When you were younger, you didn’t have to worry so much about your family history, especially if you were relatively healthy. But since many health issues, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, have a tendency to run in families, you’ll want to start paying attention to it in your 40s. Ask your doctor this question in order to have a discussion about your family history. It’ll help him or her be better able to manage your health, whether that means doing more frequent screenings or putting an end to any risky lifestyle habits.
Which screenings do I need?
The types of tests you need (and the frequency with which you’ll get them done) will change as you age. Ask your doctor this question to find out exactly which screenings you should have done in order to stay on top of things. It might be something as simple as checking up on your blood pressure or cholesterol on a regular basis.
What supplements should I be taking?
Even if you eat a super-healthy diet, you might still need to take a supplement here and there to give your health a boost. Ask your doctor if there’s anything you’re lacking. Maybe you’re low in vitamin D or could use some antioxidants to help keep your immune system strong.
“The gold standard would be having your practitioner draw your nutrient levels to know what you may or may not need for your body,” says Berghoff. “You really shouldn’t follow a one-size-fits-all supplement plan, as our bodies all age differently and are biochemically unique.”
How much exercise do I need?
It’s hard to make time for exercise during a jam-packed day. But since it’s so important for your health, you’ll want to ask your doctor exactly how much you should be getting. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most adults should aim for between two and a half and five hours of moderate exercise or 75 minutes to two and a half hours of vigorous exercise a week. But your doctor might have a personalized suggestion depending on your current fitness level.
Is my blood sugar in a healthy range?
While only four percent of Americans between 18 and 44 have diabetes, that number dramatically increases throughout your 40s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For Americans 45 to 64, that rate goes up to 17 percent. Because of that, the American Diabetes Association recommends screening for type 2 diabetes every three years after the age of 45. Many people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it, which can put their health and life at risk.
Why do I feel so down?
You’ve been happy all your life, so why do you feel so down now? That’s a question that’s incredibly important to ask your doctor, as your risk of depression increases with age. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, you’re more likely to develop depression between ages 45 and 64. Other risk factors include stressful life events and a family history of depression.
Which types of exercises should I be doing?
The type of exercise you do is just as important as how often you do it. Ask your doctor what the best type of workout is for your current health status. Depending on past injuries, your fitness level, and other factors, one style might be preferred over others, like going to yoga instead of a high-intensity workout class.
Don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends strength training, either. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as three to five percent of your muscle mass per decade, which makes resistance training even more crucial, according to Harvard Medical School.
What should my diet look like?
Your diet plays a huge role in your health. By the time you enter your 40s, you may begin to experience health issues because of what you’ve been putting on your plate all these years. Ask your doctor what your diet should look like. If you need to control your blood sugar, you might be told to eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains. And if you need to improve your cholesterol, you’ll probably be told to avoid foods high in unhealthy fats.
How often should I be screened for breast cancer?
Breast cancer screenings are crucial for catching problems as early as possible. That’s why you should ask your doctor how often you should be getting a mammogram, which is an X-ray of the breasts that can help doctors uncover early signs of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, women ages 45 to 54 should get a mammogram every year.
However, if you’ve got a family history of breast cancer, a genetic tendency, or certain other risk factors, your doctor may recommend a different screening plan that’s personalized for you. Ask them this question to find out what that is.
How often should I be screened for prostate cancer?
Once you reach your 40s, it’s time to ask your doctor how often you need to be screened for prostate cancer—especially if you have a family history or are African American. Since one in nine men are diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, the Prostate Cancer Foundation says it’s recommended that everyone gets a baseline PSA (prostate-specific antigen). The test identifies those who are at a higher risk and should pay extra attention to stay healthy.
Do I weigh too much?
It’s never fun to ask if you weigh more than you should, but it’s about so much more than vanity—it’s for your health. According to the CDC, nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults are obese. If you’re at an unhealthy weight, you could be at risk for life-threatening conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer, so it’s always a smart topic to address.
Should I take an STD test?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are thought of as a young person’s problem. But the STD rate in older adults is also high—mostly because of not getting screened or treated, as well as a change in the immune system. According to Harvard Medical School, rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are highest among older adults ages 45 to 54. Be sure to bring it up at your next appointment—especially if you’re dating and not using protection.
Do I need a colonoscopy?
If you don’t have inflammatory bowel disease or a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, you’ll want to begin regular colonoscopy screenings at 45 years old, according to the American Cancer Society. (And if you do, you should start sooner—which is something your doctor will be able to help you with.) Sure, it’s no fun to have a colonoscopy, but for most people, it’s only recommended once every 10 years.
How’s my blood pressure?
Your chance of developing high blood pressure increases as you age because of changes in your vascular systems. So once you reach your 40s, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor how you’re doing. Until age 55, men have a greater chance of having high blood pressure than women, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). A woman’s risk goes up after she experiences menopause, which generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. If you don’t keep your blood pressure in check through a healthy diet and lifestyle, the NIA says it could lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure, as well as other health issues.
Is my heartburn a problem?
There’s nothing worse than experiencing a bad case of heartburn. And if you’ve dealt with the problem in the past, it will likely only become more frequent with age. According to the Cleveland Clinic, that’s due to the fact that your muscles weaken over time, including your lower esophageal sphincter, which controls the opening between your esophagus and stomach. If you’d like to put an end to heartburn for good, your doctor can prescribe medication and give you suggestions on other life changes that can help as well, such as changing your sleeping position or adjusting your eating schedule.
Is my heart healthy?
It’s never too early to be looking out for your heart, and asking your doctor this simple question is a great place to start. According to the American Heart Association, data shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high body mass index, diabetes, and smoking) that are present in your 40s can predict your health later in life.
People who didn’t have any major risk factors in their 40s not only lived longer, but also lived more years without heart disease or chronic illnesses. So, even if you’re not concerned about heart problems now, taking care of yourself can help make sure it’s not a problem down the line.
Why am I experiencing more pain than usual?
When you’re in your 20s, you can sleep on the floor without being even a little bit sore. Now, that’s not the case. If you’re concerned about experiencing more bodily pains than normal, ask your doctor about it. While the Cleveland Clinic says it’s totally normal to notice more aches and pains as you age, chronic pain should certainly be looked into to make sure it gets the attention it deserves and is properly managed.
What can I do about my slowing metabolism?
Just like you can no longer do certain things you used to without getting sore, you also can’t eat everything you used to without gaining weight. If you’ve noticed your metabolism slowing down in your 40s, that’s normal. Experts say your metabolism declines every decade after early adulthood, which makes it harder to stay at a healthy weight. To ensure you still feel your best despite the changes your body is going through, your doctor can help recommend things you can do to battle your slowing metabolism, whether that’s eating a healthier diet or exercising more regularly.
How can I balance my hormones?
If you’re a woman, now’s the time to ask your doctor about getting your hormones in check. “Ask your doctor how you can be balancing your hormones now so you can have a graceful menopause,” Berghoff says. “I recommend even working with a functional medicine practitioner to look deep into your hormone pathways over the span of a month. That way they can track the different levels throughout your cycle and optimize them accordingly.”
Are my testosterone levels normal?
While it’s important for women to have their hormone levels tested, the same goes for men—especially when it comes to testosterone. Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, says symptoms can start small and quickly become serious. “Men with low testosterone could experience cardiovascular risks,” she says.
According to a 2017 study published in the Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, low levels of testosterone may increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
Should I cut down on alcohol?
It’s still fine to have a drink or two as you get older. That being said, it’s also important to ask your doctor about your drinking habits to make sure you’re not overdoing things; as you age, your ability to metabolize alcohol declines. According to Harvard Medical School, even if you’re drinking the same amount of alcohol you used to, you’ll begin to have a higher blood alcohol concentration in your 40s and beyond. Because of the changes in how your body handles it, you could feel more intoxicated with smaller amounts, and that could put you in harm’s way.
What’s up with my sleep schedule?
The National Sleep Foundation says it’s completely normal to go through sleep changes as you age, whether you suddenly have a harder time falling asleep or wake up more often throughout the night. Chat with your doctor about your sleep schedule and bring up any habits that are negatively affecting the amount you’re getting, like snoring, restless leg syndrome, or even stress and anxiety.
Do I have any nutritional deficiencies?
The older you get, the more vulnerable you are to having nutritional deficiencies. According to the World Health Organization, aging affects your nutrient needs, and if you’re not meeting those, your health could suffer due to the long list of diseases that are affected by your diet. Getting blood work done can allow your doctor to see what you’re low in and make sure you stay your healthiest.
Do I need a bone density screening?
It might seem way too early to be concerned about your bones: You’re still in your 40s, after all. But surprisingly, once women get closer to menopause, they’re especially vulnerable to bone loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. The change usually happens very rapidly, putting you at risk of breaks and fractures before you notice something is off. A bone density test can let you know how strong your bones are, especially if you have a family history of bone deterioration. The results can also help determine whether you should be doing anything differently with your diet to keep them sturdy.
What’s this weird spot on my skin?
If you’re not paying attention to the health of your skin, now is the perfect time to start. That’s because, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year than all other types of cancer combined. In addition, both men and women ages 49 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer (except breast and thyroid cancers in women). If you’ve had more than five sunburns in your lifetime, your risk of melanoma doubles, so there’s no reason not to get a full-body skin exam done regularly.
Should I be screened for anxiety?
The anxiety that occurs in your 40s isn’t uncommon. You’ve probably heard of someone having a “midlife crisis” many times, after all. According to The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders, midlife anxiety can come about for many different reasons, whether it’s related to your job, being unsatisfied with your relationship, or second-guessing the life decisions you made in your younger years. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of anxiety—including unexplained anger or annoyance, poor sleep, a change in your eating habits, or feeling trapped—it’s a good idea to bring it up to your doctor to see what can help.
Why am I gaining weight?
It isn’t just easier to gain weight in your 40s—it’s also harder to lose it if you do. Neither men nor women are safe from a slowed-down metabolism, an underactive thyroid, muscle loss, and being less active—all things that can affect the number on the scale. If a change in your weight is bothering you or becoming unhealthy, your doctor can give you a plan of action to combat the extra pounds.
What’s up with my decreased libido?
Your sex drive can take a hit in your 40s. For women, that’s typically due to perimenopause or menopause. And for men, it can be a result of natural aging or an underlying health condition like depression or stress, says the Mayo Clinic. Certain medications can also cause a decrease in your libido. If you’re experiencing any problems like this, there are plenty of options you can discuss with your doctor to ensure you feel like yourself again.
Should I be worried about stress?
Stress can take a toll at any age, and it’s especially something to be aware of in your 40s if you’re feeling the effects. You’re at a time in your life when you’re trying to juggle a lot: a crazy schedule, a relationship, kids, work… the list goes on and on. If you let your stress get the best of you, the Cleveland Clinic says it can negatively affect your health, resulting in headaches, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Is there anything I can do about hair loss?
Men usually expect hair loss as they age, and by age 40, there’s a good chance it’s already not as full as it used to be. In fact, by age 50, 85 percent of guys will have experienced some thinning, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Women might experience hair loss, too—especially if it runs in their family or they’re experiencing any hormonal changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Either way, if you’re noticing changes in your hair, it’s something you can bring up to your doctor.
Should I have my BMI evaluated?
BMI—or body mass index—uses your weight and height to put you into a certain weight class. And while this might not have been something you’ve considered getting done in the past, it could benefit your health. After calculating your BMI, you’ll be in one of four categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. Then, your doctor can recommend different lifestyle changes so you can be your healthiest self.
Do I need a cholesterol screening?
Dyslipidemia occurs when there’s an abnormally high amount of lipids—AKA cholesterol or fat—in the blood, often due to diet and lifestyle choices. Because it’s linked to heart disease and stroke—two of the top killers in the United States—it’s important to get your cholesterol levels tested. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends men 35 and older and women 45 and older have a screening for lipid disorders. If you’re already at an increased risk for coronary heart disease, it’s especially important for your health.
Why do I have to pee all the time?
An overactive bladder can really get in the way of your day-to-day. According to the Urology Care Foundation, it becomes more of an issue as you age and affects 33 million Americans overall—30 percent of older men and 40 percent of older women have an overactive bladder. This condition not only requires frequent bathroom trips during the day, but can also wake you up at night. So it’s a good idea to bring it up to your doctor to find out how to manage it before it starts interfering with your wellbeing.
Are my vaccines up to date?
When you’re younger, it probably feels like you’re getting vaccinated all the time. It’s not something you can just ditch as you age, though. According to the CDC, adults 27 to 60 years old should be getting a yearly flu vaccine, have had a Tdap vaccine (which protects against whooping cough), and a Td booster shot (which covers tetanus and diphtheria) every 10 years. Check with your doctor to make sure all your shots are up to date to prevent any health problems.
Should I be worried about food allergies?
Most people assume if they didn’t have any food allergies as a kid, they never will. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The Mayo Clinic says that while most allergies start in childhood, they can develop at any point during your lifetime. Sometimes, that means experiencing serious issues like anaphylaxis, facial swelling, hives, or trouble breathing, but it might also cause digestive problems. If certain foods start giving you trouble, your doctor can help find the culprit.
Why am I experiencing inflammation?
Inflammation is always something to watch. It’s essentially your immune system’s response to an irritant, whether that’s external or internal. In some cases, inflammation can be helpful—like if you get a cut and your body is trying to heal it. But in other cases, it can harm your health. Sometimes your immune system accidentally fights against your body’s cells, leading to issues like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. That’s why anytime you’re experiencing inflammation, it’s smart to bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Should I be concerned about my back pain?
Back pain isn’t always just back pain. While it’s increasingly common to experience as you get older—especially due to normal wear and tear—it can also be a sign of an underlying condition, including infections, inflammatory diseases, tumors, and kidney stones, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Ask your doctor this question to get to the root of the cause. Even if it’s not something serious, he or she can help you manage your pain. And for more things to talk to your doctor about, check out the 10 Things Doctors Say Patients Should Tell Them, But They Never Do.
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