Doctor explaining x-ray to patient
Updated: October 6, 2012 6:04AM
If life had instructions, upkeep would be easy.
Many men don’t think twice about neglecting their health, letting a decade or more slip by without scheduling a checkup, says Jeff Cain, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicans. One-third of men have no regular doctor, and the same number say they visit a doc only when really sick.
“Men are used to maintaining their cars, but they aren’t used to maintaining themselves,” says Cain, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Unlike women, men aren’t handed a preventive maintenance schedule. Women learn from an early age to schedule a “well woman exam” every year.
Yet doctors say there are lots of things that men can do to take care of themselves — both inside and outside of the exam room — at every stage of life.
† A meningitis shot, required at many colleges.
† HPV shot, to prevent infection with the human papillomavirus, which causes a variety of cancers and genital warts, if men haven’t been vaccinated already. This vaccine is most effective if given before men become sexually active.
† Tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) booster. Everyone needs a tetanus booster every 10 years. And recent outbreaks of pertussis, or whooping cough, have led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend this vaccine for everyone.
† Guys should get their blood pressure checked at age 18, too, although this can also be done by a nurse or even the trainer at the gym. The American Heart Association recommends men check their blood pressure at least every two years. A blood pressure of 120/80 or less is considered healthy.
Your 20s and 30s
† Men should take a fasting cholesterol test every five years, beginning at age 20, according to the heart association. Men with unhealthy cholesterol may need more frequent tests.
† The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Baby Boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, get a test for hepatitis C, which can destroy the liver. Many people with the disease don’t know they have it.
† By age 45, the American Heart Association recommends that men have a fasting blood sugar test, which can tell if men are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Men should repeat the test at least every three years. Many men don’t realize they have diabetes or are on their way to developing it. Making early lifestyle changes can prevent the disease from developing, or keep it under control , says Raul Seballos, vice chair of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
† The task force recommends men at average risk get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50. Men at higher risk want to get screened earlier, says Michael LeFevre, co-chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel that advises the government. Men who choose screening colonoscopies should be checked every 10 years, while those screened with fecal occult blood tests need to be tested annually.
† Experts disagree about the benefits of routine screening for prostate cancer. The preventive services task force has concluded that PSA testing typically does more harm than good. Other groups, such as the American Cancer Society, say men should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors and make an informed decision.
Your 60s and 70s
Peripheral artery disease
† The American Heart Association suggests having an ankle-brachial index test every year or two, starting in your 60s. The test measures the pulses in your feet to detect plaque build-up in the arteries of the legs, which can lead to blood clots.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm
† Men who have ever smoked should get a one-time ultrasound test for this type of aneurysm, in which the blood vessel balloons and threatens to burst, between ages 65 and 75. Non-smokers don’t need it, the preventive task force says.
Gannett News Service