Men’s health is often ignored until it’s too late. Your prized car, computer and cellphone need regular checks and updates, right? So does your body. Improve your chances of a long and healthy life, and peace of mind too, with regular health checks.

Men’s health is not just for November. It’s a year-round issue. Dr Daniel Cosgrove, Medical Director of the WellMax Center in California, hits the nail on the head. ‘Cars get routine check-ups. So do planes. But for our bodies, the most precious thing we have, we wait for symptoms. And unfortunately, most diseases are far advanced by the time symptoms appear,’ he says. Getting the right medical checks at the right time is one of the best contributions to men’s health. If diseases such as colon cancer and diabetes are located early, they’re far easier to treat.

Don’t be daunted… here’s a list of the medical exams you should have, compiled by Carol Sorgen in Men’s Fitness, to ‘help keep your body a finely tuned machine throughout your life’. Schedule a visit to your personal healthcare practitioner to arrange the appropriate tests.

In your 20s

  • Visit your healthcare practitioner annually for a physical exam to check weight, blood pressure, etc.
  • Spend 10 minutes a month examining your testicles for any irregularities in size or shape, or pain. Arrange a screening if you find something you’re not sure about. Testicular cancer affects one in 2000 men in South Africa, mainly between the ages of 15 and 40. If caught in time, it can be treated successfully, and deaths are rare.
  • Have a family history of heart disease or diabetes? Your doctor may refer you for an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check your heart health, and for blood tests to screen for diabetes, thyroid disease, liver problems and anaemia.
  • Have a cholesterol test every five years.
  • If you love beach time, you may be at risk of skin cancer; regular drinkers may be headed for alcohol abuse; and sexually active young men are at risk of transmitted diseases and HIV infection. Regular screenings can help pick those up…

In your 30s

You’re still young and healthy, but your lifestyle may be taking its toll on your body, so in addition to the screenings recommended for 20-year-olds…

  • Book an annual check-up with your healthcare professional. If it’s called for, your doctor may recommend an ECG to check for heart disease, and a blood test to screen for diabetes, thyroid disease, liver problems and anaemia.
  • Your vision and eye health may be changing. Have an eye test every 2–4 years.

Your 40s

It’s a sobering thought, but you’re on the cusp of middle age. You’re probably still fit and healthy, but those wild days of cheeseburgers and oceans of alcohol are no more – if you did that now you’d die. So, in addition to the tests recommended for younger men…

  • Do not miss your annual physical check-up for all the regular checks – blood pressure and weight, and an ECG (if necessary). Your doc will probably take blood to send to a lab to check for thyroid disease, cholesterol, liver problems, anaemia and prostate health. If you’re a risk for coronary heart disease, you’ll be sent for screening.
  • Have your prostate checked. While a prostate exam is not a dignified procedure, it’s a vital one for virtually all men. Usually, an enlarged prostate does not signify cancer, although this form is the most common cancer in men. (In South Africa, one in 18 men is diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.) If caught early, it can be cured.
  • Once you’re 45, schedule a screening for diabetes every three years.
  • Depending on your lifestyle, your doctor may send you for screening for skin cancer, oral cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and alcohol abuse.
  • Have an annual eye exam.

So you’re 50!

  • Never miss your annual physical check-up, including a prostate exam.
  • Keep up those testicle checks.
  • Check your cholesterol regularly.
  • Screen for lipid disorders and have an annual ECG annually.
  • Have an annual check for Type II diabetes.
  • Screening for skin cancer, oral cancer, lung cancer, liver disease and sexually transmitted diseases may be recommended, depending on your lifestyle.
  • Have annual eye and hearing tests.
  • Worried about your bowel? Your doctor will probably arrange a colon test, such as a colonoscopy.
  • Tired all the time? You may be stressed and depressed. Your medical practitioner will advise.

60s and older…

There’s no doubt that ageing affects your health. So, in addition to all the tests listed above, and the results of those tests, make sure you’re examined for…

  • Coronary heart disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and carotid artery ultrasound screening.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Colorectal screening, based upon previous studies and results. (Not recommended if you’re over 85.)
  • Signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Depression.

Don’t put off the routine checks we’ve recommended because you never seem to have enough time. Those men’s health visits, along with a healthy diet and balanced lifestyle choices, could prove to be cost-effective – they could even save your life. Diarise them early in the year, and stay healthy!

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.

References

  1. A special thanks to Carol Sorgen for her article ‘An age-by-age breakdown of the most important medical tests for men’ in Men’s Fitness. http://www.mensfitness.com/training/check-ups-every-guy-needs
  2. Cancer Society of South Africa. CANSA. http://www.cansa.org.za/
  3. Men’s Health Forum. Symptom watch. https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/symptom-watch
  4. Men’s Health Forum. Symptom watch. https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/symptom-watch

Photo credits

  1. Photo courtesy of Jill111 Pixabay.com