All too frequently boys and men are encouraged, when injured, to be tough, walk it off or rub some dirt on it.
Some subscribe to the idea that you don’t visit a doctor unless you are feeling symptoms.
However, it’s important to take advantage of all of the benefits that regular medical and dental visits have to offer. After all, how can we be there to take care of others when we don’t take care of ourselves.
Here’s a list of screenings and tips to help you, or the men in your life do just that.
ONGOING & PREVENTATIVE CARE
- Annual wellness exam:
Although Ben Franklin was speaking on fire safety when he said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it’s an axiom that works seamlessly when discussing the annual pilgrimage to a primary care physician.
During a men’s annual health exam, a healthcare provider will review your medical history, and perform a physical exam, including checking vital signs, evaluating the heart, lungs, and abdomen, as well as performing a genital exam. Blood tests may be ordered to check for cholesterol and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. You may also have a blood sugar test to get screened for diabetes. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends hypertension screening for all patients over the age of 18.
The provider may also discuss lifestyle factors that affect your overall health, such as diet, exercise, and smoking cessation.
- Important Men's Health Screenings include:
Type 2 diabetes assessments & screenings.
Blood pressure checks
Check-in regarding any pre-existing conditions
Review medications (if needed)
Your physician may also set up additional screenings outside of your annual men's wellness checks to monitor any of the above if your results are outside the desired norm.
- Regular Dental Attention
Your teeth are part of your body right? So treat them right by giving them a good brush & floss a couple of times a day, and a professional exam & cleaning every 6-12 months.
Keeping up-to-date on your inoculations helps keep you and everyone in your community better protected against many potentially deadly, communicable diseases.
Here’s a list of vaccines to keep in mind:
- Flu shot: Stay on top of your flu shot every year since the viruses change from year to year.
- Tetanus Booster (Tdap): Every 10 years. Even if you are careful not to step on rusty nails, it would benefit you to stay on top of your tetanus booster shots.
If you aren’t certain you had this vaccine as a teen or preteen, you should discuss the Tdap booster with your physician to increase your protection against whooping cough.
- HPV: It is now recommended that boys and men from ages 9 to 26 get the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. Although most cases of HPV will go away on their own, the cases that don’t can cause several types of cancer in both men and women.
- COVID-19 Vaccine: The CDC recommends everyone stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines for their age group. Follow ongoing updates on the CDC's COVID vaccine page.
- HIV Screening
All sexually active men should be screened at least once per year. Although the common practice is to test between partners, speak with your physician about how often you should be tested after the initial screening.
- Syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea
Screening at least once a year is recommended, and more frequently if you are active with multiple partners. As with HIV screenings, the common practice is to test between partners, but your physician can help guide you in terms of testing frequency.
If you don’t have a regular physician, or if healthcare costs could prohibit you from proper, regular testing, your local Planned Parenthood provides STD testing with fees on a sliding scale. Your health is paramount, so take advantage of local resources if it’s necessary to keep you well.
- Skin Cancer
If you are going to spend time in the sun, make sure to routinely apply SPF 30 sunscreen. Further protect your skin whenever possible by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a hat, and sunglasses.
- Testicular Cancer
Although men of all ages should regularly check themselves for testicular lumps, testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men ages 15 to 34. If you discover a lump or have testicular pain, it’s imperative to tell your doctor.
- Eye Disease
Regardless of risk factors, those aged 40 and beyond should have their sight checked regularly. Do see an ophthalmologist before age 40 if you have a family history of eye disease, or contributing risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Additionally, you should consult an ophthalmologist if you have changes in vision, eye pain, or other ocular symptoms.
- Colorectal Cancer
Most physicians have historically recommended getting your first colonoscopy at age 50 unless you have contributing factors, preexisting lower gastrointestinal issues, or a family history of colorectal cancer. However, new studies are recommending men consider starting at 45, so speak with your physician regarding whether the earlier testing window makes sense for you.
- Prostate Cancer Screenings
Prostate screenings are another area where consultation with your healthcare provider is key. Experts differ on recommendations regarding when and how often men should be screened or tested for prostate cancer. However, it is especially important to consult your physician if you are of African descent or have a family history of prostate cancer.
- Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 testing should begin at age 45, unless you are overweight, obese, or have other risk factors such as a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol. In that case, you should consider testing at least every 3 years, unless otherwise directed by your physician.
- Shingles Vaccine
It’s strongly recommended that men 50+ get the shingles vaccine. The new and improved Shingrix vaccine is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles, a painful skin rash that can materialize in patients that have had chickenpox or have received the chickenpox vaccine. The shingles vaccine can also reduce the likelihood of a painful complication called postherpetic neuralgia.
60’s and Up
Starting at 65, the CDC recommends two pneumonia vaccines. First, what’s known as PCV13 and at least one year later, a dose of PPSV23 (Pneumovax).
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
If you were ever a regular smoker, it’s recommended that you get an ultrasound test for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Men ages 60 to 75 seem to be most at risk for this malady, which is caused when a portion of the aorta can become enlarged to the point of rupturing.
- Vision Checks
Even those with no contributing factors should have regular eye exams, not only to update the strength of any prescription glasses but also to screen for signs of cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
If you have pre-existing eye conditions or eye disease, consult your ophthalmologist to get their recommendation on testing frequency.
- Bone mineral density:
Men 70 years+ should have the test, and work with your physician to establish a schedule for follow-up testing if necessary. If you have contributing risk factors such as anemia, inhaled corticosteroids (normally used to treat asthma) or a history of fractures, or have broken a bone after age 50, you should consider earlier testing.
In addition to all of the above checks, screenings, and tests it’s important to remember to put in that ounce of prevention. Be active daily, with 30 mins of aerobic exercise at least 3 times per week. Combine that with a healthy diet and you’ll put yourself in a position to live a longer, healthful life.
Have additional questions? Contact your local pharmacist today.
Unity Point Health