(Have these checkups & live longer)
A recent health survey for men conducted by AAFP revealed that more than half of all men have not seen their primary care physician in the past year.
Neglect is one reason why men have a higher age-adjusted death rate than women. If you are one of those men who need to pay more attention to their health, start by scheduling a regular physical with your doctor.
Don’t let your health suffer from neglect. Have periodical health checkups to uncover early warning signs of health issues, from heart disease to testicular cancer.
Heart rate check
Research shows that as many as 89% of sudden cardiac events (such as heart attacks) occur in men. One quick self-exam to gauge the health of your heart is to check your pulse when you are at rest. Place the first two fingers of one hand on the area at the base of the wrist on your other hand. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six. A normal pulse (heart rate) for a man should be between 60 and 100. Anything outside that range could be a sign of cardiovascular problems. You should also pay attention to the space between beats. An irregular pulse could be a sign of atrial fibrillation or other serious heart issues. Repeat this self-exam at least once every month.
Cholesterol screening/lipoprotein profile
Cholesterol is a type of fatty protein in your blood that can build up in your arteries, so knowing how much cholesterol is present is a good predictor of your risk for heart disease. There are two kinds of cholesterol: HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, and LDL, or low-density lipoproteins. Confusingly enough, HDL is “good” and protects against heart disease, while LDL is “bad” and poses a risk to your heart.
Your total cholesterol reading combines the measures of both and is used as an overall reading; 220 is the magic number that you want to stay beneath. In addition, the profile measures triglycerides, which are fats in the blood that can also block arteries; you want them below 150 milligrams per deciliter.
Blood pressure check
One in every five adults, totaling 50 million people, has elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension. When your blood pressure readings are higher than the cutoff of 140/90, it puts stress on your heart, leaving you at risk for heart attack and stroke. Many experts believe 120/80 is a healthier target to shoot for.
To check your risk for diabetes, doctors check your tolerance for glucose absorption, which means how readily your body digests sugar. If you are significantly overweight, have high blood pressure, or have other risk factors for diabetes, such as family history of the disease, it is a good idea to get tested younger.
Testicular cancer screening
Many men still don’t know the signs of this disease. With early detection, a man’s chances of survival go up by a whopping 90 percent, so it pays to be vigilant. Sometimes a man’s partner is the first to notice signs of testicular cancer. At the first sign of concern, call your doctor and ask for an examination. Your doctor may also recommend an ultrasound or a blood test for tumor markers that can indicate testicular cancer.
Prostate cancer screening
The digital rectal exam is a lifesaver because prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting one in six men. A second test, called the PSA test, is used to look for elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen. While the PSA test has come under fire for producing a high number of false positives, it’s still the best first-line blood test for prostate cancer. You may start tests from age 45, and do it every year.
Belly fat check
More than other fat, belly fat produces hormones that increase men’s risk for heart disease and diabetes. To do this self-check, simply wrap a tape measure around your waist at the level of your belly button. If you measure more than 37 inches, you are at risk for potentially serious health problems.
Oral health check
Oral cancer and gum disease are important men’s health issues. Research shows that oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women, possibly because of cancer-causing HPV infections, which account for 72 percent of all oral and throat tumors. Oral cancer may show up as a sore or lump that does not heal on the lips or in the mouth. To check for potential tumors, open wide and look and feel for any abnormalities, running a finger around and under your tongue. White or red patches in your mouth can be early warning signs of oral cancer. Always let your doctor or dentist know about these findings. Repeat this check monthly.
Bone density check
Osteoporosis can affect men as well as women. Advancing age is a significant risk factor. A bone density test helps to determine the health of your bones. Men over the age of 50 should have regular bone density tests. Be advised by your doctor.
Men below the age of 60 should go for an eye exam every two years. After men hit the age of 60, they are recommended to have an eye exam every year to detect any early symptoms of macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. If there is a strong family history of eye sight problems, or if the individual suffers from diabetes or high blood pressure, eye exams should be a yearly feature.
When to Have a Checkup
If your health has been generally good, a physical exam every two or three years is probably enough when you are under 40. Between ages 40 and 49 every two years, and yearly exams are recommended after 50. These exams should include the items listed above and other tests as indicated for your age, family history and health condition.
Generally, men are biologically and culturally programmed to appear strong and capable. We can easily ignore and deny anything that makes us look weak and vulnerable. We tell ourselves we can handle it and we believe we can. But, how many of us can handle recovering our health once it is gone. Scheduling regular exams can find potential problems early and keep you focused on your future health.