Preventive healthcare is very important and can be a critical factor in helping men stay healthy throughout their life. In most cases, if you detect symptoms of certain health conditions early, they are more easily treatable and less life-threatening in some cases. In honor of Men’s Health Week, we wanted to put together a men’s preventive health checklist of doctor-recommended health care screenings to make sure you aren’t overlooking an important step in your preventative healthcare. Check them out below:
Annual Wellness Exam
Everyone should get a wellness check-up each year. Wellness check-ups include a physical exam, the doctor will make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations and will also screen you for diseases. Your healthcare provider should also talk with you about your personal health habits, including your diet and exercise routine, as well as avoiding tobacco. If you have a chronic medical condition, you might need more than once a year visits.
After the age of 35, it is important for men to get their cholesterol checked regularly because too much cholesterol in their blood can cause heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. The good news is that it is an easy process to get your cholesterol checked. Plus, if it is high, there are some simple steps you can take to lower it. For instance, just some lifestyle changes like eating healthy, getting more physical activity or there is a medication that your doctor can prescribe.
It is generally recommended to get your cholesterol checked at least every 4 to 6 years unless you are at high risk. Some of these higher risk factors include using tobacco, overweight or obese, diabetes, high blood pressure, having a relative who has had a heart attack before the age of 50, or if you have a history of heart disease. If you have any of these risk factors, you should start getting your cholesterol checked at the age of 20 and often. Make sure your doctor knows if high cholesterol runs in your family or if anyone in your close family takes cholesterol medication because this is something that can run in families and is very important to watch.
Blood pressure is another thing every man should get checked regularly, as high blood pressure (aka hypertension) is the biggest risk for heart disease and a significant risk factor for other serious health conditions including stroke and heart attack. It is also very common, as 1 in 3 US adults have high blood pressure. The scary fact is high blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so it’s sometimes called a “silent killer.” The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get tested at your doctor's office. It is a simple test that only takes a minute with immediate results. The good news is that if you have high blood pressure, it is very treatable.
Starting at age 18, you should get your blood pressure checked every 3 to 5 years. Then after the age of 40, you become at higher risk for high blood pressure so it needs to be checked once a year. Also, make sure you are always keeping track of your blood pressure numbers, as it is important to see if it fluctuates over time.
People with other cardiovascular risk factors should check their blood pressure more frequently. You could also be at higher risk for high blood pressure if you are included in any of the factors below:
-Overweight or obese
-Little or no physical activity
-Drink alcohol regularly
-Do not have a healthy diet
-Have kidney failure, diabetes, or heart disease
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an enlargement of the aorta, the main blood vessel that delivers blood to the body, at the level of the abdomen. It is very common, in more than 3 million US cases per year. It is treatable but can be life-threatening if it bursts. If an aortic bulging is ruptured, it can result in severe or fatal internal bleeding. That is why it is a very important part of preventive healthcare. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are most common in older men and smokers. So men between the ages of 65 and 75 who smoke tobacco or have a history of smoking in their lifetime, should be screened. It’s an imaging test such as a CT Scan, Ultrasound, or MRI study and can help determine the presence, size, and extent of an aortic aneurysm.
At the age of 45, a blood glucose test is recommended and the screening should be repeated at least every 3 years. Men who have high blood pressure or take medication to control their blood pressure should also be screened for high blood sugar. If you are a higher risk person (i.e. being overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, history of gestational diabetes) screenings will probably begin earlier than age 45. Also, if you ever experience symptoms of persistent severe thirst, frequent urination, unexpected weight loss, increased hunger, or tingling in the hands or feed, you should also talk with your doctor about getting tested.
All men should get screened for colorectal (colon or rectal) cancer by age 50 and it should be repeated every 10 years. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should get a colonoscopy even sooner. There are several different tests that can help detect colon cancer, but colonoscopy continues to be the gold standard. This test can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early when it is easier to treat. If colorectal cancer runs in your family, you may need to get tested before the age of 50. Just talk with your doctor about all your risks.
Hepatitis C Virus
All men born between 1945 and 1965 should get a blood test for hepatitis C, if he was born to a mother with the virus, in need of dialysis for kidney failure, received a blood transfusion before the year 1992, received blood clotting factors before the year 1987, or has ever injected themselves with drugs. This is important because Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer in the United States.
Mental & Emotional Health
Don’t ignore your mental health. It is estimated that at least six million men suffer from depression each year, and many of these men are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Talking about your feelings isn’t something “typical” of many men but is very important and can become a life or death situation. Make sure to talk with your doctor if you have experienced any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
-Significant change in appetite or sleeping patterns
-Loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities
-Feeling hopeless, worthless, restless, irritable, sad, or anxious
-Decreased energy, motivation
-Inappropriate feelings of guilt
-Difficulty concentrating or thinking
***If you’re having recurring thoughts of death or suicide, seek treatment immediately.***
Regardless of any perceived risk factors, all men that are 65 years of age or younger should get screened for HIV. If you are over the age of 65, discuss with your doctor about getting screened.
Recommendations regarding prostate cancer screening vary widely among different health care professionals. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening to determine what is best for you as an individual.
Ear, Eye & Dental Health
Eye Exam- All adults should receive a comprehensive eye examination by the age of 40. If you have any pre-existing eye conditions, you should go to an ophthalmologist a lot earlier. Some of these eye conditions consist of a family history of eye disease, or if you are at risk of many chronic conditions such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, or diabetes, and if you experience any visual changes, eye trauma, or other ocular symptoms. After the age of 65, be sure to get your eyes checked for cataracts every 1-2 years, as well as, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
Hearing Test- If you ever have issues with your hearing, make sure to talk with your healthcare provider and get a hearing test.
Dental Exams and Cleanings- It is recommended that everyone see their dentist every 6 to 12 months for a dental exam and cleaning unless otherwise recommended by a healthcare professional.
If you notice any unusual moles or skin changes speak with your healthcare provider. Also, if there is a family history of skin cancer, make sure your healthcare provider knows. Additional screenings might be needed.
Make sure to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays from the sun. It can cause damage to your skin as well as cancer. Wear sunscreen every time you’re out in the sun, as well as sunglasses, a hat, and long sleeves if necessary.