This article was originally published on the Brigham HealthHub blog
Detecting symptoms of certain health conditions early, when they are more easily treatable, is a critical factor in helping men stay healthy. That’s why getting all your doctor-recommended health care screenings in a timely fashion is the kind of to-do list that no man should ignore.
Below is information about ten important health screenings for men, including the appropriate timing for each.
1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked tobacco should get screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. An imaging test, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study, can help determine the presence, size, and extent of an aortic aneurysm. The major risk of this aortic bulging is a rupture resulting in severe or fatal internal bleeding.
2. Blood Cholesterol
All men 35 or older should get their blood cholesterol levels checked regularly. Men who use tobacco; are overweight or obese; have a relative who had a heart attack before the age of 50; or have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease should get their cholesterol checked much earlier, at the age of 20. There are several measures of cholesterol, and all are important in determining heart disease risk.
3. Blood Pressure
Every man should have their blood pressure checked regularly, and patients with other cardiovascular risk factors should check their blood pressure more frequently. This can be performed at your doctor’s office. High blood pressure is the biggest risk for heart disease and a significant risk for other serious health conditions.
4. Colon Cancer
All men should get screened for colorectal (colon or rectal) cancer by age 50. 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.
Don’t ignore your mental health. An estimated six million men suffer from depression each year, and many of these men are under-diagnosed and under-treated. Talk to your doctor about getting screened for depression 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.
Men who have high blood pressure or take medication to control their high blood pressure should get screened for diabetes (high blood sugar). Anyone experiencing symptoms of persistently severe thirst, frequent urination, unexpected weight loss, increased hunger, and tingling in the hands or feet also should talk to their doctor about getting tested. The preferred screening for diabetes is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the last three months.
7. Hepatitis C Virus
A man should get a blood test for hepatitis C if he was born between 1945 and 1965; was born to a mother with the virus; needs dialysis for kidney failure; received a blood transfusion before 1992; received blood clotting factors before 1987; or ever injected drugs. Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer in the U.S.
All men 65 or younger, regardless of perceived risks, should get screened for HIV. Men over 65 should talk to their doctor about getting screened.
Using a BMI calculator to determine your body mass index (BMI) is usually a reliable, but not conclusive, indicator of whether you’re at a healthy weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, a BMI above 25 is overweight, and a BMI greater than 30 is obese. If you have a high BMI, your doctor may use one or more other methods to help further assess whether you are overweight or obese. These include: measuring waist circumference; using a caliper to measure skinfold thickness above the hip and estimate body fat percentage; or bioelectric impedance, which involves sending a safe dose of electricity through the body to measure body fat percentage.
10. Prostate Cancer
Recommendations regarding prostate cancer screening, particularly PSA screening, vary widely among health care professionals. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening to determine what is best for you. Patients who opt for screening typically undergo the following two tests:
- Digital rectal examination (DRE) – The physician inserts a finger into the rectum to feel whether the prostate gland is enlarged or has any lumps.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test – The PSA test measures the blood level of a certain protein that is produced by the prostate gland, and can be elevated in men with prostate cancer.