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How To Talk To Your Doctor

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More Videos from Howdini 30 videos in this series

When you go to the doctor are you prepared to give a complete update of your health, even if some of your concerns seem embarrassing to discuss? Dr. Brent Ridge explains how to prepare for a checkup and how to talk to your doctor.

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. Why is it that so many men are reluctant to go to the doctor when they're sick? We women end up playing doctor at home with or without a medical degree. What can you do to help your guy get ready for a doctor's visit. With me to discuss these issues is Dr. Brent Ridge of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. Good morning.

DR. RIDGE: Good morning.

LISA: Why is it Dr. Ridge that so many men are nervous about going to the doctor?

DR. RIDGE:Well, it's not just men. Everyone's nervous to go to the doctor. It's a very intimate and a very revealing situation and men in particular are not used to having those intimate and revealing conversations. So, I think that's another hurdle for them.

LISA: Is there anything they can do to prepare before the visit to make the visit more complete? More comprehensive?

DR. RIDGE: Absolutely, absolutely. And it does depends to some degree on the type of visit that they're going for. But any time that they are going to the doctor they should make a list of all of their complaints so they know going in what needs to be asked. So they have an outcome, so that I come out with answers to these questions, it's been a successful visit. Now if you're going for a complete exam, your yearly annual physical, I recommend for the man to do first is to do a full body assessment at home. Look in the mirror, see what seems abnormal. What's different than the last time you went to the doctor, so that you're going into the doctor's visit saying that these are things that are different than the last time I saw you. Point them out to the doctor.

LISA: As we get older, things do change. And that tingle in your toe or the numbness in your elbow or something. A lot of us want to pretend, oh it's nothing. And we forget that that's something we should bring up to the doctor.

DR. RIDGE: Most of the time the patient is not knowledgable enough to determine when it's nothing. So I tell people that anytime there's something different, you notice something different, you need to have it investigated.

LISA: If something is a little sensitive or embarrassing, how do we get our men to get over it and really open up to the doctor honestly?

DR. RIDGE: Well, there are two ways to do this. One is to have them practice. If you can either have them describe the problem to you or have them stand in front of a mirror and just say, this is the problem. That way when they get into the physician's office it doesn't seem so foreign. They're not trying to get it out for the first time. The other thing they can do is make a list for the doctor and send that to the doctor ahead of time either in the email or send it to his nurse, so the doctor can then look at the list and the doctor can lead with the appropriate questions and the male patient is not having to bring up the conversation himself.

LISA: Now habits. Habits that you may not be proud of. Habits that you may not realize are relevant to your medical care. Smoking, obviously, some drinking. Maybe the amount of time you spend alone or with other people. How much of that do you need to bring up at your appointment?

DR. RIDGE: You should tell your doctor everything. You know, they teach doctors lots in medical school, but they don't teach us how to be mind readers. And the worst outcome is--the outcome is either that you're not going to be treated for a particular problem or worse, you're going to be mistreated for a problem because the doctor doesn't have all the information. It's really important that the doctor-patient relationship is a partnership and you have to provide the doctor all the information to make the correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

LISA: Now family history. How important is it to know what their's is and how important is it to share?

DR. RIDGE: Family history is important for risk stratification. Your doctor needs to know what has happened in your family before you so that he or she can look ahead and think these are the things I need to be looking out for in this patient. And most people when they go to their doctor, don't know the most basic family history. Did your father have high blood pressure, did you father have high cholesterol? What age did your father die? These are really important things for your doctor to know so spend a little extra time before that visit and learn about your family history.

LISA: And when you're dealing with family history, do you need to only go back one generation or is it important to go back--

DR. RIDGE: Go back as far as you can because sometimes there is going to be a trend or a pattern that the doctor is going to be able to pick something up from. And maybe lead to a significant finding in you.

LISA: Dr. Ridge thank you so much for joining us.

DR. RIDGE:You're welcome.

LISA: For howdini.com I'm Lisa Birnbach.

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