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Men’s Health Matters
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Men’s Health Matters

HCA image for health under 50 Compared to women, American men are less likely to carry health insurance or to have seen a physician in the previous year. They are also more likely to delay seeking healthcare, as a precautionary measure and when there is a problem, according to the Men’s Health Network. Women are 100% more likely to visit their doctor for preventive services than men. In addition, a recent poll revealed that one in four men would delay seeking healthcare as long as possible even if they were sick or in pain.

There is good news. If a man, at any age, begins seeing a doctor regularly, getting screening tests, and taking preventive measures, his quality of life may be greatly improved down the road. He may also reduce his risk of premature death and disability.

Doctor’s Orders: What Tests You Need and When

Screening tests help doctors detect diseases early, when they are easier to treat. The following recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force are general guidelines for screening procedures for healthy men. Since some men may need screening at more frequent intervals, consult your doctor for personalized advice.

Screening Procedures for Men

Test

Why It’s Important

When You Should Have It and How Often

Aortic abdominal aneurysm (AAA)About 5% of men between the ages of 65 and 70 have aortic aneurysms. A smoking history greatly increases risk. An undetected aneurysm that ruptures has an extraordinarily high mortality rate.Men between ages 65 and 75 who have smoked 100 or more cigarettes over their lifetime should have at least one ultrasound screening for the presence of AAA

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and other problems. The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked. Men ages 20 and over should have their blood pressure checked at least every 2 years.

Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol causes most of the same problems as high blood pressure. Beginning at age 35, men should have their cholesterol checked at least every 5 years. If you smoke, have diabetes, or if heart disease runs in your family, you should have it checked beginning at age 20.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. Early detection can drastically reduce the likelihood you will die from the disease. Men age 50 and over should be screened for colorectal cancer. When to be screened depends on which test your doctor recommends:
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)—used to check for hidden blood in the stool (should be done annually).
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy—an examination of the rectum and lower colon using a sigmoidoscope (every 5 years).
  • Colonoscopy—an examination of the rectum and entire colon using a colonoscope (every 10 years).
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE)—a series of x-rays of the colon and rectum (every 5 to 10 years).

Diabetes

Diabetes is associated with long-term complications that affect almost every part of the body. If detected early enough, you can prevent or delay the onset of the type 2 form of disease, and the complications of both forms of diabetes. Men should be tested for diabetes if they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or if they weigh more than their ideal weight and have a family history of diabetes. The three main tests are:
  • Fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) level—the direct measurement of glucose levels in the blood during an overnight fast
  • Random blood glucose (blood sugar) level—the direct measurement of glucose levels in the blood drawn randomly at any time without regards to meals
  • Oral glucose tolerance test—measurement of the body's ability to appropriately handle the excess sugar presented after drinking a high glucose drink.

Depression

One in 10 adults experience depression each year, and nearly two-thirds do not get the help they need. Treatment can alleviate the symptoms in over 80% of cases. If you’ve felt sad, hopeless, or have little interest or pleasure in anything for two weeks or more, you may be at risk for depression. Numerous screening measures are used to detect depression, including the Reynolds Depression Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Zung Depression Rating Scale.
ObesityAbout 66% of all adults in the United States are overweight; about 33% are actually obese. Being overweight or obese can greatly increase your risk of a variety of other health problems.Have your body mass index (BMI) calculated to ascertain whether you are at your ideal weight-for-height; if you are not, ask your doctor about a safe weight-loss method

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)

Fifteen million Americans become infected with an STD each year. Symptoms may go unrecognized. Sexually active adults should be screened for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and other STDs at regular check-ups.

Prostate Cancer

Some prostate cancers become a serious threat by growing quickly, spreading beyond the prostate gland to other parts of the body, and causing death. Men ages 50 and over should talk to their doctor about being screened for prostate cancer. Tests include:
  • Digital rectal exam (DRE)—a physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or irregularity of the prostate.
  • Blood test—to measure levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the prostate gland (PSA levels may rise when prostate cancer is present).

In addition to screenings, it is recommended that men regularly have a check-up to review overall health status. Men ages 20 to 39 should have a physical exam at least every three years; men ages 40 to 49 should have one every two years; and men age 50 and over should have one done annually.

Also, men should stay up-to-date with their immunizations. Specifically, they need:

  • A flu shot every year starting at age 50
  • A tetanus-diphtheria shot every 10 years
  • A pneumonia shot once at age 65
  • Hepatitis B shots (as suggested by a doctor)

Going to the doctor provides men the opportunity to get checked out for health problems they may or may not realize they have (or are at risk for). The earlier men start seeing a doctor on a regular basis, the earlier they can establish a relationship with someone they trust and feel comfortable talking to. And, by learning what's normal early on, it will be easier to detect any serious changes later.

Lastly, remember that many health problems are simple to treat if they are caught early. Therefore, men can do themselves a huge favor if they make a commitment to take care of their health by talking to a doctor before or if a problem arises.

RESOURCES:

New York Online Access to Health
http://www.noah-health.org/

Men’s Health Network
http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

BC Health Guide, British Columbia Ministry of Health
http://www.bchealthguide.org/

Canadian Family Physician
http://www.cfpc.ca/cfp/

References

Men's Health Network. Addressing the crisis in men’s health through educational and policy initiatives. Paper presented at: National Institutes of Health; May 12, 2003. Men's Health Network website. Available at: http://www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/MHNNIH051203.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2003.

Dietary guidelines for Americans (2000). US Department of Agriculture website. Available at: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/. Accessed June 30, 2003.

Men: stay healthy at any age. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/ppip/healthymen.htm. Accessed June 26, 2003.



Last reviewed May 2008 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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