Whether it’s because of a career focus or for another reason, putting off medical care is a real problem among men, says Chris Lay, MD, an AdventHealth family practice doctor based in Palm Harbor.
But by not seeing a doctor regularly in middle age, men and women are endangering the retirement and family they’ve worked so hard to build. Many life-changing illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease can be prevented by primary care checkups.
Making it clear to patients that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other problems are not just numbers — that they are deadly serious aspects of health — is a key part of his approach. At the same time, Dr. Lay builds bonds with patients and tries to put them at ease.
“Straight talk is critical for me,” he says. “I’m a common-sense kind of guy and I think people respond to it.”
It’s not only the immunizations and blood tests that happen in a doctor’s office that get results. Seeing a doctor opens doors in other ways, putting men and women on the road to skin checks, cancer screenings and other medical help.
“I’m your quarterback, and we have the connections who can help you get on the right track,” he says. In other words, a primary care doctor is like a hub for your medical care — even if you see another doctor, records can be sent back to him or her at your request.
Dr. Lay’s goal is to help men and women thrive both now and in the years to come. Often, the discussion starts and ends with prevention.
Recently, Dr. Lay looked at an 1860s photo of the Seventh-day Adventist medical pioneers who started the work that would one day turn into AdventHealth. What they were advocating then — a focus on whole-person health that prioritized clean air, clean food and an active lifestyle — hasn’t changed.
“I’m beating that exact same drum now,” Dr. Lay says. Take, for example, the leading cause of death: heart attack and stroke. If you control blood pressure, including through diet and exercise, your risk of heart problems goes down.
Prevention also extends to immunizations and cancer screenings. Nearly as many Americans die from the flu each year as were killed during the Vietnam War, he explains, but most people can prevent it with a vaccine.
The same is true of cancer screenings. Colonoscopies, mammograms and skin checks are great at nipping cancer in the bud. Without them, if cancer develops and spreads, treatment is less likely to be effective.
“We don’t do a good enough job at educating people about prevention, and that’s my biggest interest in primary care,” Dr. Lay says. “That old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is so true.”
The care a primary doctor offers goes beyond the physical.
Health Care for Mind and Body
A primary care doctor can also help raise a topic many men are hesitant to talk about.
“I tell everyone I treat depression and anxiety the same way I do a physical problem like diabetes,” Dr. Lay says. In other words, it’s a problem of chemistry.
Many men ask him whether their lethargy and overall tiredness could be a result of low testosterone. If the test comes back on the low side, he repeats it, and they discuss replacement therapy.
“Most of these folks I don’t have to beg to take their medications like I do for people with high cholesterol or blood pressure,” Dr. Lay says with a laugh.
Taking the First Step
Before a primary care doctor can put you on the right path, you have to step into their office. Find someone you mesh with, Dr. Lay says, and build a relationship.
“The biggest thing I do is try to make people feel comfortable,” he says. “You need to find someone who fits with you.”
AdventHealth primary care doctors see themselves as stewards of their patients’ whole-person health. That means helping them solve their problems today while preparing them for the road ahead.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lay’s office, visit our website or call 727-935-6477.