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From scheduling screenings to getting vaccines, taking charge of your health will help you feel your best.

Guys, have you made your health a priority?

If not, you’re not alone. In fact, men are 33% less likely to see a doctor than women.

Fortunately, taking charge of your health is easier than you might think. And if you don’t want to do it for yourself, consider all the people who count on you and do it for them. They’ve probably been hoping you’ll schedule those checkups and screenings.

Build your health history

If you’re skipping your annual physical, you’re missing the chance to build a relationship with a provider who can view your health history over time.

Why is that important?

Because if an issue does arise, your doctor will have records of things like your blood pressure, weight and exercise habits. They’ll also get to know you. Your stress levels. Your family background. Whether you smoke, or ever smoked. And that can all lead to a better diagnosis — and suggestions to keep you in tip-top shape.

“Carve out time at least once a year to see your provider for a complete physical,” suggests Dr. Rahul Shenoy, a family medicine doctor at Geisinger’s Mifflintown clinic. “This allows the PCP to better understand your personal history and recommend ideas to improve your health.”

Don’t skip those screenings

You might have a basic idea of when you need certain screenings, like colonoscopies. But guidelines change. So, be sure to use part of your annual physical to ask your doctor what you need.

Then get those screenings on your calendar.

Beyond the big ones — again, colonoscopy — don’t forget your:

  • Annual eye exam
  • Cholesterol test or lipid panel
  • Cancer screenings, like a thorough skin check
  • Twice-yearly dental exam

If you’re not keen on seeing the dentist once a year, let alone twice, keep in mind that there seem to be connections between dental and heart health. For example, poor oral health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can impact your heart valves. Better to brush up and get those professional cleanings than risk a problem down the road.

Give your health a shot in the arm

You might dislike needles as much at age 40 as you did at age 4. But rolling up your sleeve is still crucial to staying healthy.

Ask your doctor about a:

  • Flu shot
  • Shingles shot
  • Pneumonia vaccine

A quick pinch now could save you a lot of real pain later. (Just ask anyone who’s had shingles.)

Taken care of everything else? Now get some rest.

Sleep can seem like a luxury, especially in mid-life, when we’re all pulled in so many directions. But getting enough sleep is actually a necessity.

“Often undervalued, sleep is when our body restores itself,” Dr. Shenoy notes.

If you have trouble sleeping, it’s worth talking to your doctor, because you might have a sleep disorder.

And if that’s not the case, they can offer tips to help you get the restful sleep you need.

One possible suggestion: Put away the electronics early.

While it can be tempting to check your messages or watch one more episode on your phone before you close your eyes, light from electronics can impact your sleep. Stop using devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime for optimal rest.

Your bedtime snack might also disrupt your slumber. It’s best to avoid the kitchen for at least 2 hours before you turn in.

Manage stress

Tossing and turning because of stress? It’s normal to feel stress — from time to time. But if you’re stressed all the time, talk with your doctor to make sure you aren’t depressed. They’ll help you identify signs of depression or anxiety including:

  • Withdrawing from activities you enjoy
  • Feeling more irritable than usual
  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequently feeling anxious or worried

“It’s important to recognize when you’re struggling,” says Dr. Shenoy. “Don’t be afraid to seek help.”

Healthier habits, healthier you

To start living your healthiest life, talk to your healthcare provider. They’ll work with you to develop a customized plan that helps you meet your personal health goals.

“You don’t need to make drastic changes to improve your health,” Dr. Shenoy adds. “Small changes now can lead to big changes over time.”

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Meet Rahul Shenoy, MD