The Straight, No Chaser Guide to Health Screenings for Men

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Typically, this is the time of the year when you start to inventory all the things for which you’re thankful. In the event health or your family comes to mind, you might be interested in preserving your health. This and the next Straight, No Chaser looks at current health screening recommendations. Whether it’s an ounce of prevention or early detection, you’re much better off knowing what your health status is. Today, let’s focus on men’s health, as men are much less likely to have encountered a physician. Please remember: these recommendations are in effect regardless of “how you feel!”

 

Health Screenings For Men – Ages 40 to 64

Blood Pressure Screening:

  • At age 40, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you’re seeing a physician at any point during the year, this will be done. Be sure to ask for and document your numbers. If you aren’t seeing a physician, these days local pharmacies and various other opportunities through communities will allow you to stay aware of your blood pressure.
  • If you’re getting it checked on your own, remember the following numbers: if the top number (systolic) is above 140 or the lower number is more than 90, you should schedule an appointment with a health care provider.

Cholesterol Screening

  • Cholesterol levels should be checked no less than every 5 years.

Colon Cancer Screening

  • All men between 50-75 should be screened along one of these guidelines:
    • A stool test for blood every year
    • A flexible sigmoidoscopy test every 5 years with a stool test for blood every 3 years
    • A colonoscopy at least every 10 years, and perhaps more often with risk factors such as ulcerative colitis, a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal adenomas
  • Men under 50 years may need screening if a strong family history of colon cancer, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease exists.

Diabetes Screening

  • After age 45, all men should be screened every 3 years.
  • If your blood pressure is more than 135/80 mm Hg, or you have other risk factors for diabetes, you may be checked at any age.
  • If you are overweight, you likely will be screened at younger ages; ask if you should be checked whenever you engage the healthcare system.

Dental Exam

  • At these ages, you should be visiting the dentist once or twice a year for an exam, cleaning and screening for oral cancer.

Eye Exam

  • At ages 40-54: an exam every 2-4 years
  • At ages 55-64: an exam every 1-3 years
  • Exams may be needed more frequently if you have visual difficulties or a significant risk for glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you need an annual eye exam.

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Heart Disease Prevention

  • At these ages, an examination is needed to quantify your risks for heart disease.
  • When you have a physical examination, specifically ask if you should be taking a daily aspirin.

Immunizations

  • Influenza: you should get a flu shot every year.
  • Shingles (herpes zoster): you may get a shingles vaccine once after age 60.
  • Tetanus-diphtheria: you should get a booster ever 10 years, assuming you’ve received the primary vaccine series – if not, you’ll need that first.

Lung Cancer Screening

  • You will receive annual screening for lung cancer if between ages 55-80 and you have a 30 “pack-year” smoking history and if you either are a current smoker or have quit within the last 15 years.

Osteoporosis Screening

  • Discuss with your healthcare provider if you’re between ages 50-70.

Physical Exam:

  • Yes, this is a very important and basic screening tool. Every year if not more often with every exam, your height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiratory (breathing) rate) should be checked.
  • Your annual exam will also assess your risks due to alcohol, tobacco and other illicit drug use, depression, inadequate diet and exercise, and improper use of seat belts and smoke detectors.

Prostate Cancer Screening:

  • Discuss with your physician at age 45 if you’re African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer in a first-degree relative younger than age 65.
  • Discuss with your physician otherwise if your older than 50.
  • In case you’re wondering, prostate exams are no longer routinely done on men without symptoms. Furthermore, the PSA test is falling out of favor; the potential benefits of PSA screening haven’t been shown to outweigh potential harm done by treatment.

Testicular Exam

  • Testicular self-exams are no longer recommended (source: US Preventive Services Task Force). Your physician may choose to examine you based on risks and/or symptoms.

If this seems like a lot, well, you’re worth it. You can always print this out and compare notes with your physician; odds are they’ll have all of this covered. The most important thing is to get checked!

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.

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