By Mike Ziman, CEO
You have many talents, but staying on top of your doctors’ visits and financial planning may not be one of them. We get it: You’re busy. Still, taking care of crucial appointments can actually save you time now and avoid a crisis later. Check these items off your to-do list and make 2016 your healthiest, most productive year yet.
Tips from Men’s Health® magazine (and these work for women, too!).
1. STOP DODGING THE DENTIST
Almost half of people go more than a year without getting their teeth cleaned, and adults are especially good at avoiding the dentist, says Men’s Health dentistry advisor Mark Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D. Why should you bother?
“If you wait too long, a small cavity will grow,” Dr. Wolff says. “Wait longer, and that tooth may become infected, causing swelling and terrible pain. In the end, you may need root canal, crowns, or the worst-case scenario: extraction.”
But all of that can be avoided if the decay is found early. You should typically see your dentist every 6 months, he says. Don’t have a dentist? Ask your local friends for theirs, Dr. Wolff suggests. Find out if the office is modern and clean and whether the dentist takes the time to talk about preventative care.
2. QUIZ YOUR PARENTS
Your mission for the next time you go home to see your folks: Get a detailed record of the health problems that seem to run in your family. “A family history provides valuable insight into your risk of disease and can be the foundation for advice about how to stay healthy,” says James O’Keefe, M.D., a professor of medicine at University of California, Los Angeles.
Talk with your immediate family members and grandparents, aunts, and uncles and ask whether they’ve had any of the following: common cancers, like colon, prostate, or lung; cardiovascular disease, including any heart attacks or heart surgery; diabetes; stroke; autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease; eye conditions, such as glaucoma; a history of addiction or depression; or any other conditions that are genetically linked. Make note of how old each relative was when they were diagnosed with the condition, Dr. O’Keefe says, and how each person is related to you.
Then take the list to your next physical exam and walk through it with your doctor. It will inform how he cares for you: “If somebody’s father had colon cancer at a young age, we’d start screening earlier than usual, for example,” Dr. O’Keefe says.
3. ASSESS YOUR FITNESS LEVEL
In any journey, you need a starting point. The same goes for getting in shape, says Men’s Health training advisor Mike Boyle, A.T.C. Find your baseline with a body composition test and a functional movement screen (FMS), which identifies any limitations in how your body moves. Unless you fail the FMS miserably, you only need to do it once, Boyle says, but re-evaluate your body comp every month to measure your progress (or lack thereof). “Many people see exercise as an excuse to eat more,” Boyle says. Getting your body composition checked on a regular basis won’t let you get away with that. You can take both tests at most gyms. Call your local gym to see if it offers them.
The big thing is to keep (start) moving regularly. Everyone knows the benefits regular exercise provides to muscles, skeleton, lowering cholesterol, heart and brain. Remember it is also good for a general sense of well-being, mood, attitude, relationships, and stress reduction.
4. CONTACT AN OLD FRIEND
You probably have a close college friend who you’ve barely spoken to since graduation. Plan a guy’s trip if you can, or if you can’t, give him a call. Shooting the breeze with an old pal is always fun, but catching up can be a good way to take stock of your life, too, says Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. “It forces you to bring your old friend up to date on what you’ve been doing with your life,” Greif says. Laying it all out in the open may even motivate you to change course, he says. Sure, it can be weird to talk to another dude about anything more than sports and jokes—so start with that, Greif says. Then ask what’s been going on since you last talked.
5. GET YOUR MOLES CHECKED
Your physician may give you a skin cancer exam at your next checkup—or s/he may not. “It’s up to any general doc,” Dr. O’Keefe says. So to be safe, get a dermatologist’s input, says Men’s Health dermatology advisor Adnan Nasir, M.D., Ph.D. “Based on his evaluation, you can be told whether you need regular dermatology checkups or can see your primary care doctor for your skin care with a referral only as needed,” Dr. Nasir says.
Not convinced you need to squeeze a skin cancer exam into your busy schedule? Do it for your family. “I see many patients whose families rue the man in their lives for not getting a checkup early enough for it to be preventive,” says Dr. Nasir.
If you don’t already have a dermatologist, ask your primary care physician whom s/he recommends, Dr. Nasir says. You can also check the American Academy of Dermatology. Or follow this advice on How to See a Dermatologist Sooner.
6. SEE YOUR DOCTOR
If you’re a healthy person in your 30s, your doc may not need to see you every single year, says Dr. O’Keefe. But if you have no clue when you’re due for your next checkup, that’s the sure sign it’s time to give him a call, he says. And if you don’t have a primary care physician, get on that, stat. “Your doctor will be better able to treat you when you’re sick if he’s seen you when you’re well,” says Dr. O’Keefe. At your exam, he’ll screen you for the majors, including heart disease, prostate cancer, lung disease, and diabetes—all things that are best caught early. Find an available primary care physician easily by booking online through services like ZocDoc.
7. GET YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER
No one likes to think about death, especially not their own—and especially not before they're well into their 70s. But if you don't record your wishes, it can cause a lot of pain and confusion for your family if the worst happens. "By the time someone is in their 30s, they should have a will, medical directives, and power-of-attorney documents filled out," says Ryan Law, Certified Financial Planner and Director of the Center for Economic Education at the University of Missouri. "These are basic estate-planning documents that everyone needs, regardless of marital status or whether you have dependents."
8. THANK YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER
It’s easy to get a little too comfortable in a long-term relationship. Show your partner you still notice all the little things s/he does for you, says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a Manhattan-based marriage therapist. Sit down and write out the top five most-meaningful things s/he did for you in 2015, he says. You don’t have to be all deep and philosophical: Maybe s/he didn't shame you when you lost $1,000 on a Super Bowl bet, or perhaps s/he’s awesome at something really intimate. Then give them the note to keep. Being grateful will not only make them feel warm and fuzzy, but it’ll make you happier, too, Hokemeyer says.
9. ANALYZE YOUR BUDGET
Spend a Saturday tidying up your finances, suggests Scott Kahan, a financial planner at Financial Asset Management Corp. in New York.
Look back over your last 12 months of spending and see where your money went so you can build a budget for 2016, Kahan says. An online program such as Mint or Yodlee will make tracking your expenses a cinch. Identify some ways you can cut back: If you see a lot of ATM withdrawals, stop hitting up the machine, he says. It’s often the biggest hole in a budget because it’s hard to track. Use your debit card instead so you can easily see where your money is spent.
Then write down your short- and long-term goals, Kahan suggests. For example, plan what vacation you want to take and how much it will cost. Build that amount into your budget and start saving for your trip. Review your budget every month to make sure you’re on track.
10. LEND A HAND
If you haven’t volunteered since you set out to pad your college résumé, consider getting back at it. Helping someone else is actually in your best interest: When you volunteer, your brain produces a surge of feel-good chemicals (serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine) that gives you the warm fuzzies and boosts immunity to stave off illness, research has found. Don’t know where to start? Organizations like New York Cares and the United Way list volunteering opportunities online.
Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for a Healthy, Productive New Year!
Mike Ziman, CEO