You’ve got your family’s medical history down, and never forget when the first day of your last period was, but you might still be overlooking an important topic at your primary care doctor's visit: your fitness.
See, you probably know that if you’re dealing with a traumatic injury, you should seek out an orthopedic doctor or physical therapist. But if you notice that something has been or has become a little off during your workouts, that’s something you can and should bring up with your regular doc. “Certain medical issues that are underlying can unmask themselves during exercise,” says David Fleming, M.D., president of the American College of Physicians and chair of the department of Internal Medicine at the University of Missouri.
Your regular physician knows about your health history and can detect warning signs for more serious health issues, says Robert Lee, M.D., a family physician on the board of directors for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Think of your primary care doctor as the quarterback of your football team,” says Jordan Metzl, M.D., an exercise physician and author of The Exercise Cure. “You should probably start with them, and then if they want help they can direct you in the other way.”
Not sure how to get the ball rolling with your regular doc? Here are five concerns you might have that you can definitely bring up to him or her:
Are Any of the Medications I Take Affecting My Exercise?
Certain medications have side effects that could mess with your workout routine, says Metzl. Medications for asthma, blood pressure, depression, and ADHD can change the way your body reacts to physical activity, he says. Make sure your doctor informs you of possible side effects before you take the medication, or if you’ve started taking a new medication and notice changes, mention them to your doc.
Why Am I Always Out of Breath?
When a flight of stairs leaves you as breathless as Barry’s Bootcamp, it might be a sign that you have asthma or a pulmonary issue, says Lee. “We’re all supposed to be short of breath while exercising, but it’s a good short of breath,” he says. “Going up a flight of steps where you used to race up and not feel anything and now you’re awfully winded—that would be worrisome.” There’s not just one answer to why you’re feeling breathless, so your doctor will need to check out your lungs, circulation, heart, and muscles.
Why Am I Light-Headed During Cardio Workouts?
A dizzying, light-headed feeling during cardio may not be a runner’s high—it could be a sign that you’re anemic, says Metzl. Women who get their period regularly and vegetarians are more likely to develop anemia due to an iron deficiency, he says. The simplest warning sign: feeling easily fatigued during a workout you can usually complete easily, says Metzl. If you notice this is starting to happen, your doctor can help you figure out why.
Why Do I Feel Weak and Shaky?
If you get the shakes (and not the type that come when you’re doing a wall sit or plank), become extremely hungry, or feel woozy during a workout, it might be a sign that you have low blood sugar, says Fleming. “Your blood sugar will drop while you burn calories, but a normal body will replace the calories you burn out of the blood stream,” he says. Some people, however, can’t replace the sugar on their own, which can lead to those feelings of dizziness and shakiness. Tell your doctor ASAP if you’re experiencing these symptoms, says Fleming. You could be hypoglycemic, meaning you have a condition caused by low blood sugar, or have diabetes.
Why Am I Getting Muscle Cramps at Night?
There’s no alarm clock quite like a muscle cramp in the wee hours. It’s usually a sign that there’s a build-up of byproducts in your muscles right before you go to bed, says Lee. So first method of attack: Try doing some light activity right before bed, he says, such as walking up and down the stairs a few times. You should increase your blood flow and get rid of any of the cramp-causing byproducts left over from your workout. But if the cramps keep happening regularly, say something to your primary care doctor, says Metzl. It could be a nutritional issue.