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Importance of Regular Check Ups for Men’s Health

A close family member recently experienced a hemorrhagic stroke as a result of uncontrolled blood pressure. He was 42 years young and had no idea he had any health issues. Now he and his family are faced with months to years of demanding rehabilitation and recovery. Despite these tremendous difficulties, his wife and young children are happy, and lucky, to still have him around. He did not see his doctor regularly nor did he ever feel any symptoms prior. He felt perfectly healthy.

That’s the scary part. Many diseases are silent until something devastating happens. The only way to prevent these types of events is to get checked. This is something the young, and particularly men, avoid. Many 30- to 40-somethings don’t think they need to see their doctor. I’m in my 30s and am guilty as charged.

However, the truth is that the National Institute of Health recommends that men over 18-years-old check their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar every 2-5 years. Could this have prevented my family member’s stroke? No one knows for certain but there is a good chance his hypertension would have been picked up and treatment started.

We are very good at making sure children and the elderly get annual check-ups, but we fail to do so with those who fall in between. Particularly men since we lack the gynecologic motivation to see a doctor regularly. In fact, it’s important that we all check in with our healthcare providers at every age to help assess our current state of health and our potential future health risks. It also gives us the chance to evaluate our lifestyles and make sure we are making healthy choices like not smoking, exercising more and eating less.

This is why it’s important for men to know their health and how often they should be checking. In this day and age, learning health screening recommendations is only a mouse-click or mobile app away. The following is a rough guide.

Men ages 19 – 39

  • Check blood pressure every 2 years. If your systolic (top) number is greater than 120 or your diastolic (bottom) number is greater than 80 then have it checked at least yearly.
  • Check cholesterol every 5 years if you are 35 or older. If you have risk factors (i.e. diabetes) start at age 20.
  • If you are overweight (BMI >25) or have high blood pressure you should be screened for diabetes.
  • Dental and eye exams twice a year.
  • Stay up to date on immunizations and get your flu shot every year. This includes the HPV vaccine if you haven’t already had it, two doses of varicella vaccine if born after 1980 and never had chickenpox, and a tetanus-diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster every 10 years.

Men ages 40-64
Same as ages 19-39, except:

  • Screen for diabetes every 3 years if you are 45 or older.
  • Screen for colon cancer if you are 50-75 or older. If you have a strong family history screen earlier.
  • Screen for osteoporosis if 50 or older, especially if you smoke or drink alcohol, or have a family history.
  • Screen for prostate cancer if 50 or older.
  • If you have a 30 pack-year smoking history and still smoke or quit within the past 15 years then you should be screened for lung cancer if you’re 55 or older.
  • You may get a shingles vaccination after age 60.

Men 65 and over
Same as ages 19-64, except:

  • If you have smoked and are 65 or older you should be screen for abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Have your hearing tested.

In addition to the health benefits, there can be financial benefits. Some health insurance company’s offer reduced rates for those who meet certain preventative health including annual visits, basic lab work, and assessment of nutrition and BMI/BSA.

It doesn’t have to be work to get checked and it doesn’t always have to be a trip to the doctor’s office. Look for blood pressure checks and the like at work or at different events like health fairs. Pharmacies often provide automated machines for checking blood pressure.

So, whether you consider yourself old, young, or somewhere in between make sure you’re keeping track of your health and getting checked.

Resource:
MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute of Health (NIH). Date accessed: September 9, 2016. https://medlineplus.gov/

Eugene Isaac, PA-C, MS, is a Cardiac Surgery Physician Assistant at Beebe Healthcare. Eugene received a Master’s of Physician Assistant Studies from Towson/Essex University in Baltimore, Md. He has trained and worked at several medical institutions and their affiliates including Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland. Before joining Beebe’s cardiac surgery team in 2012, he worked as a surgical physician assistant at Medstar’s Good Samaritan Hospital. For more information on Beebe Healthcare’s Cardiac Surgery program, go to https://www.beebehealthcare.org/cardiac-surgery.