Studies show that men are less likely than women to keep up with annual doctor's visits. An American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) survey says that 52 percent of men have gotten a physical exam in the past year, and 30 percent of men say they wait "as long as possible" to seek treatment when they're feeling sick or in pain.
Regular doctor visits are crucial to helping avoid serious illness, the AAFP says. And with those routine visits come screenings for diseases and conditions that may not be causing symptoms or that run in your family. These are some of the top recommended tests and checkups for men over age 40—ask your doctor if they think screening is necessary:
1. Blood pressure. High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can cause permanent damage to body organs and greatly increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, it usually presents with no symptoms. If you have normal blood pressure (120/80 mmHg or below), test your blood pressure at least once every two years. If your blood pressure is high, your doctor may want to check it more frequently.
2. Cholesterol. Maintaining healthy cholesterol is key to heart health—the American Heart Association says healthy cholesterol can lower your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke. A simple blood test can measure your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. Doctors recommend checking cholesterol every four to six years.
3. Diabetes. This is a disease that occurs when your body doesn't make or use the hormone insulin properly, says the AAFP. It causes too much blood glucose (sugar) to build up in the blood. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce any insulin and is usually diagnosed in children. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin or doesn't use insulin as it should. Since obesity is a risk factor for Type 2, experts recommend men ages 40 to 70 who are overweight or have high blood pressure be tested (talk to your physician about how often).
4. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Prostate cancer is a leading cause of death in men. According to the AAFP, the PSA screening tests the PSA level in your blood. PSA is a substance produced by the prostate gland. A high PSA level may indicate a prostate problem, such as cancer, enlargement, or cancer. Some medical associations recommend that men begin PSA testing at age 40 (determine the frequency of testing with your doctor).
5. Colorectal screening. Colorectal cancer is on the rise, and The American Cancer Society recently updated its guidelines for colon and rectal cancer screenings, advising adults to get tested as early as age 45. Harvard Health says men should be tested by one of three methods: 1) fecal occult blood test annually; 2) flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; 3) colonoscopy every 10 years.
6. Testosterone. Low testosterone can lead to symptoms like a decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, weight gain, and depression. Luckily, a simple blood test can determine your testosterone levels and if you're a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy. Talk to your physician about how often you should be tested.
7. Blood tests and urinalysis. Your doctor may also recommend a complete blood count (CBC) to check your red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelets, all of which may indicate an underlying medical condition. Another common blood test is a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) which provides information about your body's fluid balance, electrolyte levels, and how well your kidneys and liver are working. A urinalysis tests your urine and can be used to detect and manage conditions like urinary tract infections, diabetes, and kidney disease.
This article is for informational purposes only. Talk to your doctor about the screening tests that are right for you.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. June is Men's Health Education and Awareness Month.