Preventive care could be the key to good long-term health, yet research shows that men aren’t seeing their doctors as often as they should.
For men who can’t remember when they had their last check-up, it may be time to schedule an appointment.
“There is some debate whether routine annual physicals are always necessary, and the answer is, it depends on several factors,” says Dr. Shikha Bhan, family medicine physician with Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Some things to consider are age, familial history of disease or personal health issues that need to be monitored.”
While the decision is an individual one, there are a number of things an annual physical can offer for men of all ages.
Screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 25 percent of heart disease deaths could be prevented with more preventive efforts and better treatment.
“Tracking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and risk of diabetes can save your life,” says Dr. Bhan.“If you have a family history of any of these things, it’s important to be screened regularly. Those with normal blood pressure should be screened every two years, while those with high blood pressure should be screened at least once a year and monitored closely by their physician.”
Vaccinations aren’t just for children.
Everyone should get their flu shot every year, and may need new vaccines or a booster, depending on several factors such as age, health status and personal medical history.
Some adults didn’t receive all of the recommended childhood vaccinations, and some immunities decrease over time, requiring a booster for maximum protection. The CDC offers vaccination schedules for adults and resources to determine what vaccinations a person may need and when.
Prostate and colorectal cancer screenings
Dr. Bhan says it’s important to know whether people are at increased risk of developing prostate or colorectal cancer and, if they’re 50 years old or older, it may be time to start routine screenings.
Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer, with risk rising quickly after the age of 50, according to the American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer is also more common in African-American men and in men who have a father or brother who have had prostate cancer.
Those who fall into one of these categories may want to discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screenings with a physician.
The CDC recommends that routine screenings for colorectal cancer, such as colonoscopy, begin at 50 years old. There are many risk factors for colorectal cancer, including a diet high in red meat or processed meats, obesity, age, type 2 diabetes and more. Those with an increased risk for colorectal cancer should discuss with their physician when and how often to be screened.
“Maintaining a relationship with your physician is important and should be paired with healthy lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Bhan. “Men of all ages should eat well, exercise regularly and work hard to enjoy the many happy and healthy years ahead.”