"These are guys that, for the most part, are in top physical condition and every one of them gets a physical," say Dr. Jacques Carter, a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "Just like the players compare their batting averages from year to year, doctors track different numbers that help them chart their patient's health over time. Things like blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight."
On the whole, women are better than men when it comes to knowing their numbers. Often the guys who can recite chapter and verse about a relief pitcher's HLD (Hold) stats (in simplest terms, it's when a reliever doesn't blow a save) and do not know their own HDL (good cholesterol). They may have the day pitchers and catchers report circled on their calendar, but they don't remember the last time they went for a checkup.
"Sometimes guys need a reminder, so I suggest scheduling around a date that's significant, like a birthday," says Dr. Carter. "Or maybe you do it now, during Spring Training. When I see someone on a regular basis, I'm in a much better position to recognize any changes and prevent problems before they arise."
If you're in your 20s you may not need to go every year, but as we get older, the visits should become more regular. And there are things we need to be aware of.
"Around here, especially, a lot of us will put on a few pounds during the winter because it's harder to be active, to get out and walk. But if we allow that weight to creep -- three pounds this year, four the next -- pretty soon we can be carrying around 20 extra pounds. Watching your weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself at any age," he explains.
Dr. Carter would like you to avoid carrying around stress as well. That's where establishing a long-term relationship with your doctor comes in handy.
"Let's say I know from our last visit that your dad was not doing well," he says. "I'll ask about him, but I'll also want to know how it's affecting you. I want to know which questions to ask. Not just, 'How are you feeling?' I don't expect a call about every sniffle, bump or bruise, but I do want my patients to call when that pain persists or that cough just won't go away. I want them to ask questions, too."
Maybe this is the time of year to do a little self-assessment. Time to get to know your numbers and maybe work on improving them.
But be realistic. Don't swing for the fences. Start with a walk.