6. I'm worried because several relatives in my family have had heart attacks. How can I tell if I'm at risk for heart disease?
Family history is a major risk factor for heart disease, so telling your doctor about a family pattern is important.
"But truthfully, everyone is at risk," says Kosowsky. "And if you are a smoker, you are at much higher risk" — about two to four times higher, according to the CDC. Speak frankly with your doctor about your lifestyle, including how much exercise you get and what you eat. That is key to getting an accurate answer about your chances of heart problems, Kosowsky says.
7. I'd like to take better care of my health and start exercising more. Do I need a stress test before starting to work out?
A stress test involves walking on a treadmill while your heart is monitored to see how it responds to exertion. "If you have a high risk for heart disease, then talk to your doctor before you start exercising," says Kosowsky. "He may recommend that you first exercise in a monitored setting to make sure your heart is strong enough."
But if your doctor recommends a stress test, find out why he or she thinks it's necessary. What does the doctor hope to learn from the test? "A stress test can lead to false positives that may lead to unnecessary treatments," Kosowsky says. "Ask about alternatives."
8. I don't think my weight is a problem, but how can I tell for sure?
"The answer is linked to exercise," says Kosowsky. "Fat or thin, you're not at a healthy weight if you're not exercising." The American Heart Association recommends that you exercise 30 minutes at least three times a week.
Also keep in mind that after age 50, your metabolism slows down and weight gain is common, especially if you don't make changes in your diet or increase your physical activity. One way to check how you're doing is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat.
9. I've been having this strange pain or discomfort. I feel a bit silly asking, but is this anything I should be worried about?
If you have questions, ask, especially about a change from your usual health status. "There are no stupid questions," says Kosowsky. "Men should ask about things that bother them or bring up any change in their normal condition. This is particularly true for men who may be squeamish about discussing issues like rectal pain and testicular swelling. And don't let your doctor simply dismiss your complaints." Sometimes small issues are minor, other times they can signal bigger issues.
10. My tests indicate I have a health problem. Can you tell me specifically what my diagnosis is?
Once you've gone over your tests and concerns with your doctor, ask for a diagnosis. "If your doctor can't give you a specific diagnosis, then ask what is most likely causing your problems," says Kosowsky. "And if you're worried that you have something like cancer, let your doctor know. Don't assume that he or she knows what you are thinking." Ask: What do we do next? Do I have choices I need to make? If further tests or treatment are needed, you should always ask why you need this and what the alternatives are, Kosowsky says. It's also important to have your doctor discuss the benefits and side effects of each option, so that you understand what you can expect, Clancy says. Ask, too, how you can get more information about your condition.