How to Stay Healthy If You’re a Man

Male signOne of the most important ways for men at any age to stay healthy and live longer is to get recommended screening tests.  These tests can detect diseases early (i.e. cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and more) when they are easier to treat.

NOTE: If you have risk factors, a diagnosed condition, or a family history of certain diseases, talk to your physician.  The types of tests, when you start testing, and how often you test may differ from the standard recommendations below.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for the following diseases:

Scale1.  Obesity: Have your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated to screen for obesity.  BMI is a tool that is used to measure body fat by the weight (in kilograms) to height (in meters) ration of an individual.  A BMI of 25 – 29.9 kg/m indicates overweight and a BMI greater than 30 kg/m indicates obesity.

You can use the BMI calculator from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to find your own BMI.

2.  High Cholesterol (age 45+): Starting at age 35, have your blood checked regularly for cholesterol levels (fasting blood test).  Talk to your provider about testing earlier if you are younger than 35 and if:

  • You have diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have a family history of heart disease.
  • You smoke.

Sphygmomanometer BloodPressure3.  High Blood Pressure (age 18+): Starting at age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least every two years.  A blood pressure reading of 140/90 and above is high.

4.  Colorectal Cancer (age 50+): Starting at age 50, your physician can decide which test is right for you.   5.  Diabetes (age 45+): Starting at age 45, screen for Type 2 Diabetes.  Test earlier if you have any of the following risk factors as they can increase your risk of getting this disease:

  • Family history of diabetes
  • Race or ethnic background – Hispanics, Blacks, Native Americans, and Asians tend to be more highly affected.
  • Metabolic syndrome (also called insulin resistance syndrome)
  • Overweight – Defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 25.
  • Habitually inactive
  • Hypertension
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels – HDL (“good”) cholesterol level is under 35 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) and/or triglyceride level is over 250 mg/dL.
  • History of vascular disease (such as stroke)

6.  Osteoporosis or thinning of the bones (age 65+): Starting at age 65, have a bone density test.  If you weigh less than 154 lbs. and are between the ages of 60 and 64, consult your provider about being tested.  If you are at risk for osteoporosis, screen at an earlier age.

7.  Chlamydia and other STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases): Have STD tests if you are sexually active and you and your partner are not monogamous.

Abd aortic aneurysm8.  Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (age 65+): If you are between the ages of 65 and 75 and have ever smoked (100 or more cigarettes during your lifetime), you should be screened once for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.  This type of aneurysm, “The Silent Killer”, is an abnormally large or swollen blood vessel in your abdomen.

Aneurysms may tear or rupture if left untreated and cause massive internal bleeding.  Ruptures are very painful events and may result in permanent disability or death.  Their exact cause is unknown, but risk factors for developing an aortic aneurysm include:

  • Emphysema
  • Genetic factors
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Male gender
  • Smoking

9.  Eye diseases (age 20+): For individuals who have symptoms at any age or who have a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that you see your ophthalmologist to determine how frequently your eyes should be examined.  Symptoms may include:

  • Visual changes or pain
  • Flashes of light
  • Seeing spots or ghost-like imagesLines appear distorted or wavy
  • Dry eyes with itching and burning

According to the Academy,  you should have a complete eye exam at least once between the ages of 20 and 29 and at least twice between the ages of 30
At age 40, early signs of disease and changes in vision begin to occur and you should get a baseline examination to screen for:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Ocular tumors
  • Systemic diseases that affect the eye (i.e. hypertension and diabetes)
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Other eye conditions

Between ages 40 and 64, have an exam every two to four years.  After age 65, you should have complete eye exams every one to two years.

Modern polarized dermatascope (typically 10x magnification)

Modern polarized dermatascope (typically 10x magnification)

10.  Skin  cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, your skin should be examined by your provider as part of a routine health checkup to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.  In-between exams, it is recommended that you check your own skin once a month.

The American Academy of Dermatology, Skin Cancer Foundation, and the 1992 National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Early Melanoma recommend annual screening for all patients.

11.  Prostate Cancer (age 50+): Next to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men.  Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Lung cancer is the first.

Routine testing for prostate cancer is not supported at this time by the American Cancer Society (ACS).  However, the ACS recommends discussing the limitations and potential benefits of prostate cancer early detection testing and should include the offer to test.  Screening involves a yearly prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) to men beginning at age 50 with at least a 10-year life expectancy.

© 2009 Karen Owoc and The Health Reporter™.  All Rights Reserved.

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