Many men make a serious mistake when it comes to their health — they don’t get regular checkups with their doctors. Some may not even have a regular doctor, and that’s another concerning factor. Men often seek healthcare only in a crisis, perhaps because they’re taught at a young age to be strong and independent. But the best way to manage and maintain personal health is to get regular checkups for the conditions you’re most likely to face.
Prostate and colon cancer are diseases that affect a large number of American men, and heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and diabetes are leading causes of death. That’s why men should talk with a doctor about their personal health risks and get screened regularly for the following conditions. Screenings can help find a disease early, when it’s easier to treat.
Colorectal cancer happens when tumors develop in the lining of the large intestines. Sometimes there are no visible symptoms in the early stages, and smoking raises your risk for it. Men age 50 to 75 should have at least one of the following:
- Fecal occult blood test every year – this is a simple take-home test that checks the stool for blood
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years – this test checks the lower colon for polyps (small growths)
- Colonoscopy every 10 years – this test checks the entire colon for polyps (small growths)
High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke. If you’re a man age 35 or older (or younger if you smoke or have a family history of high cholesterol), you should get your cholesterol checked about every five years — even if you feel healthy. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should check it every year.
High blood pressure also increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. All men should get their blood pressure checked every two years — or more often if they are at risk for high blood pressure or other conditions, such as diabetes. Your doctor can help you establish a goal that’s right for you. Generally, a normal blood pressure reading is 120 over 80, and a high reading is 140 or higher over 90 or higher.
Lung cancer develops over a period of years, and the main cause is cigarette smoke. You get immediate long-term benefits when you quit smoking. It can reduce your risk of heart disease and lung disease. So if you smoke or have ever smoked, talk to your doctor about ways to test for lung cancer.
Diabetes is a chronic, incurable disease that often contributes to other diseases. You should get tested for diabetes if you are age 18 or older and:
- Your blood pressure is high
- You have frequent thirst and urination, fatigue and blurred vision (common symptoms of the disease)
- You are physically inactive
- Have close family members with the disease
- You are African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian-American or a Pacific Islander (these ethnic groups are at high risk)
National Men’s Health Week happens every year in June, right before Father’s Day, to remind men of how important it is to take care of their health. Here are some things to think about and do during this month that celebrates you: find a doctor if you don’t already have one and talk about your health, get recommended health screenings, get adequate exercise, quit smoking, and eat a healthy diet for stamina and longevity.