You’ve heard it before: men are much less likely than women to seek medical attention for health problems, let alone see their physicians for regular physical exams and screenings. It’s time to break those bad habits. Scheduling regular visits to your doctor – and taking his or her advice – can help keep you strong and healthy for many years.
A man’s risk of developing prostate cancer increases as he ages. You should talk to your doctor about getting regular screenings starting at age 50. Those at higher risk – African American men and those with family history of prostate cancer – should consider screenings at an earlier age. Screening tests include a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam.
Colon and rectal cancers are among the most common cancers in the United States. Regular screenings for colorectal cancer should begin at age 50. Because there are multiple ways to test for cancers in your colon, your doctor can help you decide which test is right for you. How often you need to be tested will depend on which test you have. For example, the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) checks for hidden blood in the stool and should be performed annually while a colonoscopy, in which your physician uses a flexible, lighted tube to inspect the walls of your rectum and colon, should be performed every 10 years.
According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35. You should perform monthly self-exams starting at age 20. By regularly examining your testicles, you are more likely to know what feels normal and what doesn’t. Any variations in how your testicles look or feel should be reported immediately to your physician.
Too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to clogged arteries and contribute to atherosclerosis, a major risk factor for heart disease. You should have your cholesterol checked regularly starting at age 45. If you are younger than 45, talk to your doctor about how often you should have your cholesterol checked, especially if you smoke, have diabetes or if heart disease runs in your family.
Nearly one in three adults has hypertension (high blood pressure), but because most people don’t present symptoms, few know they have a problem. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels and internal organs and put you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. As you age, your physician may want to check it more frequently.
Usually considered a woman’s disease, osteoporosis also affects up to one in four men over the age of 50, according to the National Osteoporosis Association (NOA). In order to catch and treat osteoporosis before a disabling fracture occurs, the NOA recommends testing for men age 50-69 with risk factors such as low testosterone levels, a history of smoking, or excessive consumption of alcohol or caffeinated sodas, and for all men age 70 and older.
Although depression occurs in women more than men, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that four times as many men commit suicide as women. Because there is no regular screening for depression, you should see your doctor if you experience persistent sadness or emptiness; feelings of despair, worthlessness or hopelessness; an inability to enjoy everyday activities, even ones that used to cause pleasure; chronic insomnia, tiredness, or oversleeping; thoughts of death or suicide; or problems concentrating or remembering things.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
If you are over age 65 and have ever smoked, you should have one ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is the swelling or ballooning of the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and legs.
For more information about these or other health issues and a screening schedule that’s right for you, contact your physician.