UAB Medicine News
The 7 Health Screenings Every Man Should Get – and When
If you aren’t feeling sick, then why in the world would you bother going to a doctor?
This is a question that men often ask themselves, and the answer might surprise many guys. Health screenings, or preventive checkups, can detect diseases before they become symptomatic and when treatments are most effective. Over half of American men skip their recommended annual physical exams, and this becomes more and more risky as you get older.
Certain genetic and lifestyle risk factors make specific screenings more crucial for some men than others, but the seven listed below apply to all men and should be done regularly to support a long and healthy life. After all, the last thing you want to hear from your doctor is, “We could have avoided this if you’d come in sooner.”
- Blood Pressure Screening: High blood pressure is all too common among American men, and uncontrolled blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Starting around the age of 20, men should begin getting their blood pressure checked at least every other year to make sure it is at or near 120/80. If your blood pressure is high due to genetics, stress, or other factors, it’s a smart idea to have it checked more often. Men over the age of 40 should have their blood pressure checked annually.
- Cholesterol Screening: High cholesterol also is a big problem among men, so guys over the age of 20 should start having their fasting lipoprotein profile checked every four to six years. This medical test checks your levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol to determine whether you face an increased risk of heart disease. Every five years is a good rule of thumb to follow for men over the age of 40, unless you have chronically high cholesterol levels that require more frequent testing.
- Sexually Transmitted Disease Screening: As soon as a man becomes sexually active, it is a wise idea to get tested for STDs. Many STDs go unnoticed for many years, even after a man has been in a monogamous relationship or celibate for a long time. This screening is highly recommended for young men in their teens and 20s and also for men of any age who have had unprotected sex with a new partner with an unknown sexual past. Also, many doctors will recommend getting tested for HIV regularly, depending on your sexual activity level and number of partners.
- Diabetes Screening: By checking your blood glucose levels, a physician can determine your risk of developing diabetes, which can lead to heart disease and many other serious medical problems if left untreated. Starting at the age of 45, men should get a diabetes test at least every three years. More frequent screenings may be recommended for men who are overweight or who have a family history of diabetes. Young men who are overweight should start getting diabetes screenings by their mid-20s and commit to making lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the onset of this disease.
- Prostate Cancer Screening: Prostate cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, but treatment is far more effective when detected early. Most men should get their first prostate screening at the age of 50. However, African-American men and those with a history of prostate cancer in their close family may want to get tested starting in their mid-40s. There is some debate in the medical community about having regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, so be sure to discuss this particular screening with your doctor.
- Colon Cancer Screening: Colon cancer is another deadly cancer for men, and the recommended age to start this screening is 50 as well. Men who have a family history of colon cancer should get screened sooner, as should younger men with a history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease. Men should continue to have this screening until roughly the age of 75 by way of stool sample tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy.
- Osteoporosis Screening: Men and women are susceptible to osteoporosis (brittle bones) as they age, so it’s a good idea to get an osteoporosis screening starting at the age of 50. This is an especially important screening for men who have used steroids for long periods of time, suffered a bone fracture after the age of 50, have low body weights, or have a family history of osteoporosis.
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